How Emojis Prevent Women From Seeming “Bitchy”

The new school of speaking with emojis is so commonplace that when we — especially Millennial women — don’t text out a ton of them, people think we’re angry or, worse, just being a bitch.

Sketch artist Rebecca Blaine Carton worked in a female-only office and noticed her colleagues were never NOT using emojis, even in basic communication scenarios. Texts and emails with meeting times and task delegations were always softened with exclamation points and smiley faces, and Carton felt if she didn’t conform to the code of super-happy, super-cute messages about anything — anything — her colleagues would guess that she was mad. “A coworker would think you were annoyed with them,” says Carton. “God forbid you just end your sentence with a period.”

This colourful new world of office emojis inspired Carton and her collaborator, Kira McCarthy, to make this short video exploring the present and future impact of technology and social media.

I’ll be honest: If my boss texts back, “I’m OK.”, I imagine she’s horrible and near death, and I’ve nearly burned the business to the ground. If she texts me “I’m OK ? ? ?”, I imagine she’s out having a bottle of wine with friends, and I’m achieving something great at work.

Some digital anthropologists are suggesting that this phenomenon is a sign that emojis are now another way that women are conditioned to accommodate others’ feelings. If we don’t text with shitloads of emojis, our friends and colleagues may think we’re mad at them, and that’s a terrifying prospect for most Millennial women.

Jenny Davis, a social psychologist, professor at The Australian National University, and editor of Cyborgology says, “Emoji and exclamation points are the textual versions of body language… The nods, smiles, and tacked-on giggles that women have long-employed in face-to-face conversation,” she says. “In this way, the period is a stern look with crossed arms.”

Traditionally, women’s speech styles tend to be about “about making space for others’ expressions,” says Davis, so “the love hearts and winky face emojis are [also] forms of deference and affection that show care for those with whom a person communicates.”

Ultimately, Carton’s video shows the importance of being just as intentional when communicating digitally as face-to-face. So, the next time your boss texts you if you can work on a Saturday, it’s OK to text back, “sure, if you need help, I’ll be there” and leave out the “? ? ?” — you don’t have to do that.