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Emoji Etiquette 2.0

We all love emojis. They’re great for conveying an emotion that text alone just can handle or convey. And, let’s face it, our faces are great conveyors of thought and emotion — but we aren’t always right in front of the person we’re talking to to properly convey our words. Enter the emoji.

“The stratospheric rise of emoji, in text messaging, on Facebook, and elsewhere is essentially fulfilling the function of nonverbal cues in spoken communication.”

Vyvyan Evans, professor of linguistics at Bangor University

We’ve all used them. From that snarky comment that’s actually supposed to be fun loving — thanks winky face for properly conveying a joke, rather than making me spell it out — to that moment of extreme exhilaration or sadness that words alone just can’t convey — but a happy or sad emoji can. Bottom line: emojis can be your social media/texting emotional sidekick — that is, until you use them horribly, horribly wrong.

In Emoji Etiquette, using emojis in social media part 1, we talk about the do’s and don’ts of using emojis in your brand’s social media strategy, as well as what each mean. Today, we’re talking about the same thing, but in a much more immediate sense — Facebook’s Reactions and Facebook Live.

First, Facebook Reactions is the totally redesigned like button. By holding down the like button on Facebook, users can now interact with posts in much more expressive and universal ways. That means rather than just liking something, you can now choose from the following emotions or “Reactions:” 
New Facebook reactions.
Now, rather than just liking something or placing a rudimentary keyboard-created emoji — made out of parenthesis and other keyboard buttons — or typing “lol” in the comments, you can express love, hilarity, surprise, empathy, grief, and anger all with the click of a button. Thank goodness.

Another way to use Facebook Reactions is with wth Facebook Live. These live video streams allow Facebook users and businesses to connect with their friends and fans in new, powerful, and more immediate ways. With Facebook Live, as a live video feed progresses, Facebook users are able to comment, like, or send emoji-based reactions as responses, in real time. With emojis — or reactions — this live streaming feature will showcase a floating parade of incoming emoji reactions, as people choose them, showing the general viewership’s responses to the live feed. And because it’s all live, viewers and businesses alike are able to immediately interact, engage, and comment on a particular response. This, however, also means Facebook users can immediately see which emojis people are sending in response to the live event…and sometimes the chosen emoji is completely off for the intended emotion.

Here’s an example I witnessed firsthand.

During late 2016’s Gatlinburg, Sevier County, and Smoky Mountains National Park wildfires, many Facebook Live updates (sent by newscasters) kept Tennessee residents (and beyond) up-to-date on the ongoing happenings. Now, because it was Facebook Live, viewers were able to immediately post comments and choose emojis in relation to the newscaster’s update. And while there was truly great concern from the people, many — and I mean MANY — viewers chose the most improper emoji possible: the hysterically laughing — titled “haha” — emoji.

Ya, this one:

Crying laughing emoji.
The result of the improper emoji use? As newscasters portrayed harrowing scenes of disaster, hundreds of hysterically laughing emojis floated by the screen. Not ok. Now, instead of focusing on the tragedy at hand, many viewers who knew proper emoji etiquette, decided to switch their focus and start schooling other users on proper emoji use, but those little hysterically laughing emojis kept on flying by as each new bit of bad news came in. We knew people weren’t laughing at the situation — they probably thought that emoji represented hysterical bawling — but the improper use of the emoji was still felt, leaving many others outraged at what seemed like laughter at a horrible situation.

How can we avoid this? It’s simple. Know exactly what your emoji means before you send it. Know that with live features, you can’t take it back. Finally, think before you react.

Know Before You React

Nearly 70 percent of meaning derived from spoken language comes from nonverbal cues like body language and facial expression,” says Vyvyan Evans. With that being said, we’re glad emojis and Facebook reactions are here to help convey our emotions online or in text, but with these new ways to express ourselves, let’s all commit to taking the time to first know and understand what each emoji means before we send our reaction to an event, issue, or situation out into the world. Do this, and we’ll all be one step closer to perfecting the art of emoting with emojis.