A smiley face is not always just a smiley face. Behind the yellow wide-eyed emoji lies an intergenerational minefield.
The ubiquitous emoji means happy, good job, or any other positive sentiment for most people over the age of 30. But for many teens and twentysomethings, a smiley face that appears in a text message or email is considered patronizing or passive-aggressive. .
Hafeezat Bishi, 21, started an internship at a Brooklyn digital media firm and was shocked when her co-workers greeted her with a bright, smiling face. To Ms. Bishi, the welcome did not seem warm but dismissive. She sees the image as a kind of sideways smile, not genuine.
“I had to remember that they are older, because I use it sarcastically,” Ms. Bishi said of her new co-workers. “There are so many emojis, and Gen Z can never take things simply.”
The communication confusion doesn’t end with the smiley face – people of different ages take on different meanings from many of the little pictures that substitute for words in so many text messages and emails.