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I like to think I’m a bit of a hip and happening Grandma: I’m computer literate, I wear active wear (when appropriate), I’m obsessed with my iphone, I occasionally listen to Triple J, and I’m fairly adept at various social media platforms. See, I used that platform word in context. I’m even accruing a goodly collection of followers on Twitter and Instagram. However, it seems I still have to learn a bit more about the world of emojis. (Perhaps the use of ‘hip and happening’ in the opening sentence should have been a giveaway.)

I was first alerted to the dangers of inappropriate messages using modern communication when an older friend reported how mortified she was when she discovered what lol stood for (laugh out loud). She’d thought it meant lots of love and used it willy nilly when someone needed a little pick-me-up, including when signing off sympathy notes.

I’ve made a couple of whoopsies along the way myself.

M2 messaged me a picture recently showing the mess from a storm in her backyard. A sad face would be an appropriate messaged-response, right?

– Why are you sending me a picture of a face laughing so much it’s crying? What’s funny?

(Apparently that’s a very common error. And you have to be careful about the difference between the applauding and praising Lord emoji as well.)

Then other night I tried to symbolise my sympathy on Facebook for the young mum who’d revealed her poor little one was in hospital. Didn’t want to write a lot, so I put up a sad emoji. Taking particular care not to use that laughing so hard you’re crying one. There was a little monkey among the choices who looked suitably sad for the occasion, and large enough so I could see what he was doing, so I clicked on him. Three times. Because he didn’t seem to work the first two. Or the third, for that matter. Actually I just gave up thinking it hadn’t worked. Half an hour later M1 messages.

– Why are you putting all those crying monkeys all over M’s page? What’s wrong with you? You look like a crazy person.

I checked and there were three rows of HUGE monkeys. Oops. Not quite the sympathetic tone I was aiming for. Delete. Delete.

In my defence, the size of those little faces and figures is pretty miniscule and a strain on any eyes which have seen over 40 years of service and which don’t have the benefit of reading glasses placed closely in front of them. Without those glasses, the symbols all pretty much look the same, especially when they’re displayed on little phone screens. But even if we could see them clearly, some of them need a bit of explanation. Some really are a bit obscure. For goodness sake, how can one be expected to realise – without assistance – that that little brown mound is actually a pile of pooh?

Apparently we parents are prone to lots of mistakes with emojis. Check out Google. Using the wrong ones, misinterpreting, even getting too excited and using too many.


But it’s a complex world out there. Look how many versions of smiley faces there are, and they even vary between different applications. Some of those are very scary and look like they want to kill you. No wonder I’m confused.

smiley-faces These all mean the same thing, apparently!

But it’s not just us parents stuffing things up. Celebrities, politicians and businesses alike  are getting emojis wrong  left, right and centre. Cher dropped a bomb by using a bomb symbol when trying to express sympathy for those injured in a terrorist attack, likewise USA Today learnt when it published a tragic story and attempted to distil reaction to it to a single emoji wasn’t wise, and Hilary Clinton’s suffered a failed attempt last year to be hip and happening when it came to seeking feedback on their student loan policy. Here’s a couple of responses to her question.

Hillary Clinton

✔ @HillaryClinton

How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.

 Ben Jacobs

✔ @Bencjacobs

@HillaryClinton How does the TPP trade deal make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less?

4:56 AM – 13 Aug 2015


or this one:

Louisa‏@LouisatheLast 12 Aug 2015

.@HillaryClinton You know what people who went to college can use? Words.

Yep, imagine that. Words.

And even our own Julie Bishop MP, Foreign Affairs Minister, had a bit of an embarrassing moment and earned some media time when she attempted to describe Vladimir Putin in emoji shorthand. Was that really a red, angry man? Should be a bit careful picking a fight there, I’d think.

It’s a fraught world out there in emoji land.

I think I’ll have to print myself out a legend of the symbols for future usage, or otherwise stick to English. I might do that better.