Emoji don’t translate well across different phones and can lead to miscommunication, researchers say

Photo via GroupLens
Photo via GroupLens

Emoji have taken over the way we talk, but different phones’ emoji can lead to serious miscommunication.

GroupLens, a research lab at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, released a study (that will be officially published later on) titled “‘Blissfully happy” or “ready to fight’: Varying Interpretations of Emoji.”

In a blog post summarizing the research on the GroupLens site, researcher Hannah Miller explains how potential miscommunication could arise from emojis texted to and from different phones:

To your smartphone, an emoji is just like any other character (e.g., lower-case ‘a’, upper-case ‘B’) and needs to be rendered with a font. Since each smartphone platform (e.g., Apple, Google) has its own emoji font, the same emoji character can look quite different on different smartphone platforms. This is why when a Google Nexus owner sends Google's grinning face with smiling eyes emoji to a friend with an iPhone, the iPhone owner will actually see Apple's grinning face with smiling eyes emoji

The potential miscommunication comes from how people interpret emojis, Miller says. The iPhone Apple's grinning face with smiling eyes emoji may appear as a neutral smile, or even a strained one, which can be seen as slightly negative. The Google Nexus Google's grinning face with smiling eyes emoji is an upturned, more positive smile.

Lesson learned? Next time you pepper your text messages with emoji, make sure the words you use won’t be misinterpreted with a slightly-off emoji.

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