Look, I’m no emoji expert, but there’s one thing I do know: The basic smiley emoji is a goddamn liar. And using it makes you a liar, too.
I first noticed the fraudulence of this emoji’s yellow visage when praising a colleague for writing a good story.
“Nice work!” I said. “🙂”
Creeping Jesus, I thought, that smile is a nightmare. Look at it—look at the eyes. They’re dead, vacuous orbs sucking in any genuine positivity that surrounds them. She must think I’m a real asshole.
“Sorry,” I said. “That was a mistake.”
This exchange put me in a retrospective mood, and I began looking back through recent conversations to see if I’d erred this way before. Once or twice I’d used it with friends and family without noticing, I found, but mostly I’d avoided it, subconsciously aware of what a jerk that face is.
It’s not just the eyes that make me uneasy. It’s the smile itself—the Mona Lisa grin of something soulless and greedy. It bears the illusion of happiness, the kind of smile someone gives you right before dosing your tea with radionuclide polonium-210. A Westworld smile. A smile that says, “I’m only pretending to be nice to you because of that court order.”
Here’s another reason I know it’s not just the eyes: The addition of a toothy grin washes away the soulless horror in those gaping holes: 😀
See? Not nearly as terrible. Other smiley face emojis lack the passive-aggressive evil lurking inside the slight smiley. For example:
“Just don’t use that emoji then, you fucking weirdo,” someone will surely tell me. Yes, agreed. That’s the point—this cretin is just hanging out in your phone or in Slack, waiting to infect our world with its toxic nonsense. One cannot be too careful. All it takes it typing a quick “:)”and voilà! This psychopath is now in our lives.
Fact is, these things are important—how we talk to each other is important. And now that emoji are firmly embedded in our language, it is essential that we agree on some rules about how and when they are used. My proposal for the basic smile emoji: Let it lie, undead in the tomb of your keyboard, never to escape.