I'd like to buy the world an emoji, and keep it company. (all images courtesy Adobe)

As Adobe sees it, emojis “play a vital role in Americans’ daily lives.” That’s why they survey emoji use to discover annual communication trends between everyday people, and perhaps extrapolate deeper learning about the state of interpersonal relationships in the process. This year’s survey included 5,000 emoji users in the US, looking for ways that emoji encapsulate our efforts in self-expression, inclusion, searching for love, and communicating at work, among other things. These “frequent emoji users” from California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas filled out a 20-minute online survey about their emoji use, and the results are 💯 👀 📈!

Don’t be a 🍆, use emojis.

Over 90% of US emoji users agreed that emojis make it easier for them to express themselves, an overwhelming majority — though perhaps there is a bias in a sample drawn from people who self-define as “frequent emoji users,” as presumably, people who do not find that emojis make communication easier will not use them. An equal 91% of emoji users like to employ them to “lighten the mood of a conversation.” This makes sense because they are little cartoons (although as maligners of Clippy can tell you, a cartoon does not help in every situation). I think we can generally agree that the presence of a little smiley face helps soften our tenth request that someone take out the trash that’s been sitting by the front door for two days 😉. 

For the most part, top emojis keep things light-hearted and positive, but there’s always room to shed a single tear when times get hard.

The top five favorite emojis seem to be perennial faves in the emoji game: cry-laughing, thumbs up, red heart, cry-laughing extra hard, and single tear. These also feature in the top three favorite emoji combos, a progressive cry-laugh to harder cry-laugh, hearts-surrounding-face and a blown kiss, and a blown kiss and heart. Love is in the virtual air! It is probably unsurprising that 68% of the survey respondents feel that their primary reason for using emojis is to make conversations more fun, but it is interesting to note that 60% of users agree that using emojis has improved their mental health. It’s possible that this says more about the state of mental health care in the US than the healing power of emojis.

In a country without universal healthcare, emojis might be the only mental health services widely available.

As broken down by Adobe’s analysis of the 111-page report, despite their goofy lighthearted application, they are also a showcase for ways that we confront serious social issues.

“Now, more than ever, we are having an important and overdue conversation about inclusivity, equity, and diversity,” said the Adobe blog. “And because emoji are so integrated into our daily activities, it is vital that they reflect the lives of as many people as possible. According to the survey, age, race/ethnicity, culture, and disability are the top four categories of inclusive emoji US emoji users would like to see expanded.”

Emojis seem to also play a substantial role in the love lives of texters, with Gen Z in particular making — and even breaking — relationships over emoji usage. Leonardo DiCaprio better brush up his emoji game, if he wants to keep dating 25-year-olds.

Break it to them gently, say it with emojis.

Are emojis the best means of communication? As the survey shows, even emoji users find them somewhat ambiguous, with the top three misunderstood emoji being cowboy hat smiley, cherries, and upside-down smiley face. For the record, I think these clearly mean: “YEEHAW!” “yum I love cherries,” and “everything is pretty shitty but I am nonetheless smiling.” Right?

Apologies to everyone who is confused by my overuse of the yeehaw guy, I assumed my message was clear. My message was “YEEHAW!”

Whether you love them or hate them, the report makes it clear that fluency with emojis is a useful social skill in the digital age, garnering likeability and credibility at work, ease with romance, and a general sense of friendly fun. Even if you don’t feel confident splashing them all over the place, there is one sacred rule that seems to be universal: Don’t ever use 💩 or an unsolicited 🍆 unless you’re trying to end things on the rudest possible terms. In a divided world, the great social unifier seems to be a dislike of the pile of poo emoji.

Thanks, emoji, for helping us find common ground. Happy texting!
Don’t ever use 💩 or an unsolicited 🍆 unless you’re trying to end things on the rudest possible terms.

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...

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