Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Emojis are Turning Us All Into Emotionless Robots

Do you know what I miss? Writing long letters to loved ones and friends. I miss being a pen pal to someone I hardly know, and spending time handwriting letters, embellished with pretty stickers on paper that we used to call “stationery”. I miss reading other people’s words and knowing how they truly felt, as they took time out of their life to sit down and write to me.

Emojis are like “Tech Stickers” aren’t they? But they are very different from the pretty flowers, smiley faces and sparkly decorations that I used to carefully place on my stationery.

I know I am very guilty of the overuse of Emojis too. It’s become so easy for our trigger fingers to touch the tiny heart, thumbs up, laughing face, or whatever, on our phone pads, even if we don’t FEEL the way we are presenting. It has become an expectation, that if someone posts something on their Facebook or other social media feeds, that you let them know you saw it, by clicking the applicable “reaction”.

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I will be thoroughly transparent when I tell you, that when I “say” lol or click the laughing yellow face, I am not always “laughing out loud”. I may snicker, or grin, or have no facial response at all, but I feel it has become my duty to somehow respond or react in a manner that is expected. It’s a strange phenomenon, really. It’s like the other person doesn’t even KNOW how I feel because I fake it. That’s the reality.

Back in the days of stationery and letter writing, we were forced to spell out our emotions. “I miss you”, “I hope this letter finds you well”, “Yours Truly”, and we MEANT those words. We wrote letters to make sure the reader felt us on our pretty paper that we so meticulously handcrafted our emotions on.

The same can be said for Memes. Sometimes they are amusing to me and I share them, in hopes of making someone out there on my device, laugh or react. If you are one of those people who actually HAVE an emotion, I commend you. Some of them are very funny, and they have even made me “lol”, however, the emoji I respond with, that is crying laughing, is not always exactly what I look like, as I scroll through and read it. On the other side of this, Memes and Emojis are a part of the scrolling mechanisms on our social media. We click on the applicable face or “sticker” or even “gif” in response if we have time, and we scroll on by like the humorous or sad image never existed. Once it is no longer visible on the screen, it magically disappears, and we are onto something else.

I remember keeping a shoebox under my bed for years. In that box, you could find every single letter from my far away friends and my mom in law. I could never bear to just “scroll on through” and forget about them. I still have letters from my mom in law packed away, and she has been gone since 2006. I know when I am digging through my boxes and come across them, I will read every word, hold her letter tight, and most likely shed many tears. That’s why I keep them. She actually touched them and poured her heart into the words she carefully wrote, on pretty, lined paper, covered in carefully chosen stickers. I could see where she made mistakes in her spelling or used a wrong word, carefully covering it up with tiny heart or flower stickers.


The Yellow Face

We are now all yellow faces, aren’t we? Whether we laugh, cry, feel sick, feel frustrated, giving the stink eye, or winking, the yellow face has become our universal language and complexion.

That annoying face kisses, and grins, and even flirts for us. We honestly don’t even need words anymore. If we don’t use the yellow face, we can use all of the other tiny images to express our feelings or our current situation. Hell, we can even share what we are eating, or what activity we are engaged in, without words. As a writer, I find this slightly offensive. Where did all the words go? Where did all the time go, that we used to spend telling each other how we truly feel? I hope it’s not becoming a lost art, or the next generation of books will start to be published in all tiny images that we are left to decipher.

What saddens me even more, is when people share sadness on social media, (Facebook) about loss and grief. Sending true condolences of sadness, or even a Hallmark card with flowers has become tiny praying hands with RIP attached. Instead of sending your loved one's flowers, the act has been replaced with Emoji flowers and tiny hearts, that take no effort at all, other than a touch of a finger. Have we become as heartless as the little yellow face?

The Problem for Our Future

I worry about our future all the time. With mental illness and social dysfunction becoming a very predominant issue is our world, I believe it is all “Social media” related.

We don’t need to really talk to one another anymore, do we? All we are “expected to do” is respond with a reaction-any reaction, in order to communicate with each other that we have seen what they are sharing. We react with images, not words.

We share tidbits of our lives through photos, statuses, and Memes. We don’t face each other anymore in meaningful, intent-filled conversations. It has become so easy to message each other and use cartoon images to show our feelings. It is truly difficult to have real, deep relationships with anyone anymore, without that damn yellow face doing all of the work.

As I sit on the couch, in front of the TV, and a friend shares through her Facebook status “my cat of 15 years passed away in the night”, my robotic self clicks on the teary-eyed yellow face, clicks comment, finds the tiny red heart, clicks on it, skips the commercial on TV with the remote, and returns to “scrolling” my newsfeed.

Suddenly I feel sickened that this is who I’ve become.

What a sad time to be alive

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This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +393,714 people.

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