Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I can’t remember the first time I saw a smiley-face emoji.
I can remember that I felt a little odd, as if the person writing to me had met me before, even though I was sure they hadn’t.
Then again, perhaps many people now think emojis — and especially smiley ones — are teh equivalent of a digital handshake.
After all, as time has gone by and we’ve become digitalized souls, emojis have become preferable to words.
Yes, even in business communication.
Now some scientists have come along and muttered: “Oh, knock that kiddie crap on the head, would you?”
No, that’s not exactly a quote. It is, though, the sentiment I get from a new study that says using smiley emojis actually makes a bad impression.
The big, and no doubt unsmiling, brains at Ben-Gurion University in Israel insist that they and co-researchers at Amsterdam University examined the email reactions of 549 people from 29 countries.
They were all asked to read similar emails — some with smiley emojis and some without.
Hark these words from Dr. Ella Glikson: “Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence.”
What? They don’t make you seem like a terribly enthusiastic, upbeat, American-style, (fake-)friendly person?
This is surely crushing for interns the world over. This will turn the stomachs of those who believe that a smiley emoji is the very best way to get someone to instantly like you.
Without even leaving your couch, that is.
It gets worse.
“We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing,” said Glikson.
People just don’t want to tell you as many things if you’re immediately resorting to symbolic smiling.
I’m not sure how much more you can take, but I’m going to give it to you anyway.
In another part of the research, these wily scientists showed their guinea-pigs pictures of real, smiling people.
Those who were smiling were perceived as more competent than those with neutral faces.
“For now, at least,” summarized Glikson, “a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender.”
I fear that what the smiley emoji does is make you feel overly familiar.
It’s like some new hire at the office has learned that your nickname is Shortypants.
He immediately walks up to you with the introduction: “Hi, Shortypants, I’m Jason.”
He has no idea why you’re called Shortypants. He hasn’t bothered to wonder who’s allowed to call you Shortypants.
Emojis are like cats. They look so innocent and cuddly that who could possibly object?
Try taking your cat to the office and let them loose. Then you’ll find out.