By Indu Balachandran/Deccan Herald
In a landmark study centuries ago, (though with a sample size of just two people, as they were only two people then), it was discovered that men and women are different when it comes to emotions.
Women, said the research report conducted in god’s own garden, were prone to express immediate joy or sorrow (“Oh my! What a red juicy apple, Snake!”) But Men were unlikely to even notice, leave alone exclaim, over something new.
That’s why in 1982, when a computer guy Scott Fuhlman came up with something called an ‘emoticon’ – a colon, a hyphen, and a bracket, also known as 🙂 or :-(, it was assumed women would take to using them more eagerly than men.
Women did. But soon men and women alike were thrilled when in 1999, Shigetaka Kurita unleashed hundreds of emojis ( ‘e’ write +‘moji’ character ) as a pictorial freebie feature only for customers of a Japanese mobile company. By 2010, the rest of the copycat tech world happily incorporated this into their own devices. Suddenly there was an outpouring of emotions coming out of everyone’s finger tips. Happiness, sorrow, love, embarrassment, fear, horror, shock, sarcasm— Kurita had every emotion covered, and a worldwide pictorial language was born.
Everybody’s favourite emoji
Whether you were a Tamilian or a Swahilian, a thousandaire or a millionaire, you could tap on ‘😂’, and make this laugh-till-you-cry symbol, the most understood and popular word of the year in 2015.
Excited gender experts began observations again: who uses what emoji where and when and why and why not?
The answers were fascinating. Feminine writing typically aims towards caution, out of fear of being misunderstood in short text messages. Men, conversely, don’t share the same societal pressure to convey a kind tone. Not surprisingly Women outnumbered men using emojis to soften messages, repeating some preferred favorites. As expected Hearts ruled; so did variations of the famous smiley-face 😊, with kisses, blushes, elation, doubt, surprise or just kidding used most often. And men? They loved getting straight to the point, often with non-smileys— and would rather tap a Fire 🔥, a strong guy 💪🏽, a target 🎯 or a thumbs down 👎🏽, substituting entire sentences. . But the most used, favorite emoji of all by men, says the research paper by a scholar who did a PhD on emojis: the embarrassed Monkey 🙈!
Then gender-and-diversity-conscious activists decided big changes were due. Why not a choice of colored skins? Why not a rainbow-colored flag? Why not a Mrs Santa? Why not a family of two men and a baby?
At the same time some people were puzzled: why o why —a smiling Poo 💩? Isn’t that motion, rather than emotion?
Psychology experts leaped in, excited to analyze and give us hidden meanings, and answers to questions we didn’t even ask. Aha! So a guy sent you an eggplant ?! Well, well, well…! A girl sent you a peach? Oooh, naughty!
The wrong emoji
As always, I knew I’d get some illuminating answers by conducting my own research, with my good friend Maddy. We were out having coffee but found him constantly peering into his phone. “Why so anxious today Maddy?” I asked.
“I tell you, sending the wrong emoji is far far worse than weird mistakes by autocorrect” he wailed. “I thought I was sending Person Bowing to show respect to my boss for his promotion. Instead, I seem to have hit Pregnant Man right next to it !” “So why don’t you send a Facepalm to say that you are embarrassed, and he’ll know that was a mistake?” I suggested.
“I did! Only I accidentally hit Man Shrugging, in nervous haste”.
“So quickly send the yellow Embarrassed Smiley with one eye shut and tongue sticking out…” “ Are you kidding me?” Maddy yelled. “That’s a sexual innuendo, and my boss will think I’m hitting on him!”
“So why don’t you just plain text your Congratulations, and say: ignore the wrong emojis sent…” I tried advising.
“ Are you crazy? Who has the time these days to write word messages when there are emojis to help you save time?”
(Said/SheSaid is a monthly column on gender issues—funny side up)
The author’s love for cooking up stories has resulted in her latest book “My Grandmother Can’t Cook!” a quirky illustrated book for children.
Reach her at [email protected]