Emojis and Thumbs

I like emojis. I use them in texts (probably too much), on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.  These harmless little graphics provide an extra bit of flair and punch to my sometimes corny sense of humor, so I am quite happy to use them whenever I can.

While I am, unabashedly, a fan of emojis, I wonder if we are in danger of relying on them, and the ever-present “thumbs up,” a bit too much, of using them as inferior substitutions for expressing genuine, serious emotion.

If you have a Facebook page, I’m sure you’ve read the occasional sad and somber post from friends or family.  Perhaps they’re marking the anniversary of a loved one’s death, announcing a family crisis or sharing the news of a personal illness. I understand the need to share these things even if it is through a cold, unfeeling computer screen.  I think we all need outlets to get things off our chest, another platform where we can potentially find additional comfort and support.  I have no problem with that, after all, it’s up to people what they want to share on their Facebook wall.

What I do find disturbing is the increasingly acceptable trend of responding to posts of grief, sadness, or serious life events with a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or a sad face emoji.

Initially,  I didn’t  know what to make of it when someone thumbed up a post expressing what could only be described as bad or tragic news. It was very confusing.  Were they giving the thumbs up to the bad news? If so, who wants a friend like that? Of course, it didn’t take long to figure out they were actually trying to show support by liking the sentiment behind the post rather than the event that inspired it.  Still, and perhaps I’m just a stick-in-the mud, I don’t think a sad face or thumbs up is an appropriate reaction to some of the posts I’ve seen on my Facebook wall.

The whole idea that we now find it acceptable to post a sad face in response to “RIP Grandma, you will be missed,” is very odd.  It doesn’t seem enough.  A sad face in response to the death of a loved one?  A thumbs up to, “Spending our last day with Fluffy, faithful companion.  We’ll make it a good one.”?  It seems to demean and trivialize the sad and significant.  It is dismal to think we are more and more comfortable expressing our empathy by clicking on a pre-designed, graphic representation of the applicable emotion rather than reaching out personally to express our empathy.

I keep hoping this trend will dissipate a bit, that perhaps we will return to a more respectful and caring way of responding to our friends and family who may be in distress. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Who knows. In the future, maybe we’ll resort to communicating through thumbs up and thumbs down in all situations or perhaps we can just carry emoji flash cards with us at all times and whip out the appropriate emotional response when faced with someone else’s bad news. I exaggerate, I know. Still, we don’t seem to be bothered by the idea that not only do many of us spend more time engaged with our various electronic devices than we do with our family, we’ve now made it acceptable to respond to serious, life-changing events with the most trivial of gestures. And that, in my opinion, is just :(.

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