Fake Smiley Face?

Scientists find that people use emojis to hide, as well as show, their feelings
Updated: Mar. 14, 2023 at 9:34 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) -That smiley emoji face could mean anything but happy. It seems people are using positive emojis when they want to mask negative feelings.

Scientists say just like facial expressions, emojis can represent or mask a person’s true feelings. It’s kind of like when you smile, to be polite, when you receive a gift you don’t like.

Scientists asked 1,289 people who use emojis to respond to internet chat messages and report their feelings and emoji use. They found that more emojis were used between closer friends, that using positive emojis to express positive feelings correlated with personal wellbeing, and that positive emojis could be used to mask the expression of negative feelings.

The participants in Liu’s study provided demographic data, answered questions about their subjective wellbeing, and rated how often they use emojis. They were given messages with varying social contexts, responded to them as they would normally, and rated the intensity of the expression of their emotions.

“As online socializing becomes more prevalent, people have become accustomed to embellishing their expressions and scrutinizing the appropriateness of their communication,” says study co-author Moyu Liu, a researcher at the University of Tokyo, in a media release. “However, I realized that this may lead us to lose touch with our authentic emotions.”

The study found people chose to express more emotions with emojis in private contexts or with close friends. Respondents expressed least emotion towards higher-status individuals. Intense expressions of emotion came with matching emojis, unless people felt the need to mask their true emotions: for instance, using smiling emojis to mask negative emotions. Negative emojis were used only where negative feelings were very strongly felt. Expressing emotions with emojis was associated with higher subjective wellbeing compared to masking emotions.