Study that’ll have you second-guessing every text… Scientists find people use happy emojis to hide negative emotions
If you’ve received a smiling emoji from a loved one or colleague, you’d be forgiven for assuming you’re in their good books.
But a study indicates that people use the icons to hide their true emotions just as much as they use them to show their actual feelings.
The researchers likened it to the digital version of receiving an unwanted gift and still smiling and saying ‘thank you’.
A team of experts in Japan found people were most likely to misrepresent their emotions when they were talking to people of higher social status.
Scientists said people are using emojis to hide negative emotions (file photo)
With friends, however, emojis were used most accurately to express feelings, the scientists said.
Scientists recruited 1,289 people in Japan, who were mostly female and aged 11 to 26 years, or generation Z.
All had downloaded and regularly used the keyboard Simeji — Japan’s most popular free online emoji extension.
Previous research has found that people use emojis as functional equivalents of their facial expressions.
But in new research, scientists said that emojis were also being used to mask negative emotions.
They found that smileys were often being used in negative contexts to ‘manage the expression’ — and make a message seem more positive.
Negative emojis — like a sad face — were only used when negative feelings were very strongly felt.
Respondents also expressed the least emotion via emojis toward higher-status individuals.
They were most likely to use emojis to accurately reflect their emotional state when speaking to close friends.
Moyu Liu, an emotional behavior expert at the University of Tokyo who led the research, said: ‘As online socializing becomes more prevalent, people have become accustomed to embellishing their expressions and scrutinizing the appropriateness of their communication.
‘However, I realized that this may lead us to lose touch with our authentic emotions.’
She warned that the growing prevalence of online socializing could lead to people becoming more detached from their true emotions.
‘Future research should explore potential gender differences in emoji display rules and examine the structural issues surrounding the formation of these emotion cultures,’ she said.
Limitations of the study include that participants were mostly female and from Japan.
The researchers said additional research would need to be carried out in other countries to understand how emojis are used differently there.