Do emojis convey or betray emotions?

Written by: 
Helam Lau

BYU-Hawaii Communications Professor Dr. Daniel Stout discussed how although emojis can bring convenience into people’s communication, it can at times replace meaningful conversations. Students shared how they use emojis to enhance communication.


Stout said, “I fear that we have become very simplistic in our communication. Instead of expressing our thoughts, we reply with a thumbs up, or instead of expressing feelings of love, we send a heart.”


Stout used an example of a time his wife texted him a heart emoji and he replied to her with a smiley face emoji. “I still wish she would also tell me how much she loves me.”


However, according to BYUH students, emojis are a way to express emotions through texting and messaging.


Koshin Kitagaki, a junior from Japan majoring in business management, said, “Communication is not just about words. Body language and facial expressions help people to understand each other in order to build a closer relationship.


“In today’s world where people tend to talk through technology rather than face to face, emoji does help to express emotions in a more precise way. What would you think if you saw a post, ‘I am so happy dot dot dot’ versus, ‘I am so happy with a ring and a heart emoji dot dot dot?’”


Kitagaki said he uses emojis often to communicate with his girlfriend who is from Hong Kong. “Our language is not the same, so I would use emojis often to let her understand what I mean. For close friends, I don’t use emojis because that takes time, unless I really want to show specific emotions like sadness, anger, or love.”


Stout said sometimes he will use emojis when texting, but said he tries not to use it too often. “I feel like at times people are just looking for immediate answers. I have a mixed feeling about emojis. Some emojis can capture certain feelings and the right instinct. It is also an immediate way to respond your instant feedback to a message”


He said he uses emojis for unimportant messages. “Emojis are very good for non-vital communication or social encounters were conversation is simpler [or] unimportant like, ‘Have you noticed that change of dinner time?’


“It is a very effective way of communicating a simple response like yes or no; I like it or I don’t like it with some feeling and emotions. People might communicate more often because of the convenience brought along.”


Jordan Humphries, a freshman from Los Angeles majoring in business management, said, “Emojis are profoundly important. In the way of enhancing communication, emojis help when I am in a deep conversation over text. [When] talking about stuff that is hard to talk about, emojis can help us say what we mean without actually saying it. When you are having a conversation with someone through text or writing letters, it is really hard to convey emotions, sarcastic comments in particular.”


Humphries said he includes emojis in his messages whenever he can. “I not only use emojis in texts, but also email and social media posts on Facebook, Instagram [or] Twitter.”


He gave an example of how emojis are important for expressing true meanings. “‘I would love to go to the dance.’ Saying it without emojis, would be interpreted as, ‘He would really love to go to the dance.’” But he added, “With two laughing emojis or a winky face after the sentence, that is replaced by sarcasm. It could change the entire meaning of it.”


Humphries continued, “One time I had pictures to post for Halloween last year. I wanted to convey the meaning of the entire night but I didn’t know how to phrase it. I ended up using three 100 emojis with red lines underneath as my captions of the post.”


Humphries explained his emoji use, “The meaning of the 100 emoji in America is we go hard, we get 100 percent and we go all out for the night. It implies a really exciting time.


“The laughing faces with tears are definitely the emoji I have used the most often. I feel like most people would have that as their most commonly used emoji, because it either conveys sarcasm or makes a serious topic more chill.”


He said he thinks one emoji can express several different meanings. “The roller coaster emoji can either mean ‘That was a roller coaster of emotions’ or ‘We are going to a roller coaster park.’


“Another thing we [can] do with emojis is … put emojis in people’s names under the contacts. You put a heart emoji with your girlfriend, while you put a green sick face or devil face with someone you hate.


“Emojis help when I am being indecisive in what to say or say something that I usually won’t say. On the negative side, I don’t know which emoji to use.  It is not an inconvenience, but it is [similar to] picking between chocolate or vanilla ice-cream. Too many options are provided. If you are disappointed, should I use the blue forehead with a tear or the crying one?”

Date Published: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Last Edited: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2017