How not to stuff up your relationships by using the wrong emoji.

Emojis – they’re everywhere. These cuter than cute visual representations of facial expressions first created about 18 years ago have become as important as language in communicating with each other. That’s a big responsibility when you consider that human language started to develop about 100,000 years ago.

Adorable and growing like the Kardashian clan, these little guys are a modern day phenomenon and have allowed us to, playfully, make the tone of texts clear instead of leaving them floating in a sea of digital ambiguity.

Or have they?

Now it turns out that we don’t all see emojis in the same way, with research confirming that the most misused emoji is this little guy, or gal.


Officially called "grinning face", this emoji is often misinterpreted as fear and cold instead of grinning, at least that's how I see it. When I showed it to my brother on the bus on the way to work this morning he thought it looked like a happy smile.

Is emoji interpretation that dramatically subjective with some emojis communicating completely opposing emotions?

It certainly seems that way according to research which identifies "grinning face" as the most misunderstood emoji of them all due to this very issue. The study by the GroupLens Research team at the University of Minnesota found that "Grinning Face" is often seen as a pained expression or clenched teeth (or teeth chattering due to cold as I saw it).

There is actually a worldwide authority that dictates the official meaning of emojis called the Unicode standard - a character coding system. It decides what those sweet - or not so sweet - little faces mean. Imagine the conversations. Or emoji sharing.

Australian Comedian Jackie Loeb has created this song through a genuine questioning of the use of emojicons. Are they emojis? or emoticons? Is it the only way we can understand expression in this digital age? Article continues after this video.


According to the Unicode standard, this is "grinning face" and those of us that see him as cold or in pain or cold or unhappy are so so wrong.

Adding to the problem of emoji miscommunication is how different digital platforms represent them. For example, all of these emojis are meant to be "smiling face" but appear very differently on a Nexus device as opposed to an Apple device.

Image: GroupLens and University of Minnesota

Then there's the blatant and deliberate misuse of emojis in the form of passive-aggression, leading to emoji-rage. Like when a reprimand is paired with a "smilie face" or a complaint is paired with a "thumbs up" or how my husband includes a "horny devil" emoji with the most benign of communications such as text messages letting me know he has run out of mouthwash or the fact that my car is due for a service.

Just as an FYI, there is no emoji that properly communicates "loser". I have settled for sending back a "thumbs down" or just ignoring his texts altogether.

While emojis initially solved so many communications issues in the digital era such as the overuse of kisses, exclamation marks and colons and brackets being used to show happiness and sadness in a very basic form, it seems that they have evolved into a language of their own and as with any language, it is now open to misinterpretation and misuse.

So use your emojis carefully.