Icons that confuse, but tell a story nonetheless

Emojis can be implanted as a time-saving tactic.


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 11:50 PM

In the social space of social media, many emojis are misunderstood. I was surprised when a friend mentioned that the ‘folded hands’ one, which is often used to offer condolences or to imply thanks, may also be interpreted as a high five — a very different emotion. Another friend wanted to have a conversation with me over emojis on WhatsApp, and we basically went on to plug and play: whatever we thought meant something remotely connected to what we were trying to say, we used as a ‘lingo’, one that we believed we had put to good effect. The waving hand emoji, for instance, was used as a slap (when he was getting to obtuse), which I don’t think is what ‘waving hand’ was “originally” intended to convey.

The best part about emojis is how you can implant one of them as a time-saving tactic. There’s no need to spell out “I love this photo you just forwarded”; you can simply insert a ‘heart eyes’ emoji.

The worst part is they help us get lazier, and we can fake our ways through by pretending to send a hug when we don’t actually care — just because emojis are so easy to access.

Here is a roster of a few of the most-used emojis — at least the ones that crop up on my ‘most-used’ list:

The Thinking Emoji

This can be used to convey one is mulling over some deep — or not so deep — matter. It can also be used to convey doubt or confusion — like “Okay, I’m not sure what this means!” As a bonus, you can pretend to be ‘a thinker’ and come across as being more full of gravitas than you are actually are.

The Sweat Emoji

I used to always believe this is an extension of a smiley — maybe on a hot day when the sun is beating down. Turns out, this is used to express “a close call”, which includes a certain amount of discomfort. Like, “Oops, that was a narrow escape [from an awkward situation]!” But ultimately, you are having the last laugh.

The Laughing Emoji

Saying ‘LOL’ is passe. Or too much of an effort. At times, this surrogate of LOL is a saviour: when you have nothing to say, or can think of nothing else to say, in a ‘funny’ situation, you laugh… via the emoji. There is a ROFL version too, where the smiley is bent at an angle (because it’s laughing so hard). Take your pick.

The Monkey Emoji

The hiding monkey face emoji is a great one to convey embarrassment (“I forgot your birthday/anniversary” or “I forgot we had a date”) or a ‘oops I did it again’ moment. But apparently, it was invented keeping in mind a ‘see no evil’ trope — like “I’m turning a blind eye to so-and-so’s misdemeanours”.

The Nail Polish Emoji

This is possibly one of the most misleading emojis. I used to think it’s what you see is what you get: “I’ve just popped by to the salon to get my nails done”. But, reportedly, “the nail polish emoji can [also] be used to demonstrate a level of casualness or indifference” — according to a blog on inner meanings of emojis. The next time you want to tell someone you don’t have time for them, go ahead and use this — and see if you can get away with ‘articulating’ your nonchalance: that you’d rather be painting your nails instead of…

The Heart Eyes Emoji

This is my favourite one. It conveys love, approval, a pat on the back — all positive stuff… and you can’t go wrong, no reading between the lines. Safe and sweet.

The Eyes Emoji

You want to draw attention to something important, startling, newsworthy, silly, this is how you can blink out any message the best. Again, I used to think there’s a somewhat scary connotation to it, but I was wrong, the experts hasten to assure me.

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