Emojis get lost in translation

Emojis are fun to use, but they’re ripe for miscommunication.

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Emojis get lost in translation


The Future. Emojis are fun to use, but they’re ripe for miscommunication. In a professional setting, the stakes are even higher if an emoji is taken the wrong way. But messaging is  becoming more and more commonplace with remote work  Today, navigating proper emoji use could be the difference between mastering the next era of water cooler talk or finding yourself in hot water.

Crying or laughing?
That emoji may not mean what you think it means.

  • Fast Company reports that 74% of respondents to a survey from Duolingo and Slack have been misunderstood because of emoji use.
  • For example, the crying emoji is hotly contested — 25% use it to mean tears of joy, while another 25% use it to mean they’re upset.
  • The kissing emoji really throws people off — does it mean affection, platonic love, or something more romantic? It’s a minefield.
  • A PR team at Kate Spade New York even had a brainstorming session over what the heck an influencer’s use of the sneezing emoji meant. Turns out, Gen Z now equates it  with “that’s sick!”

Some companies avoid confusion by using emojis with specific meanings, such as an orange heart at Hermès or the hot face at Kate Spade.

Communication breakdown
With Gen Z no longer considering GIFs cool (it still breaks our hearts), the emoji has become the go-to visual communication tool, especially with the rise of remote work and the always-on nature of platforms like Slack and Teams.

But their use also reveals some pretty stark communication differences between generations. Younger people really don’t want their tone to be taken the wrong way, so they tend to overuse emojis, while older workers are fine with emails that just read, “Ok” (we shudder at the thought).

The big takeaway: emoji wisely.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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