Communicating via digital means—such as text message or Twitter—can be a bit of a minefield. After all, without the nonverbal cues of face-to-face interaction, it can be hard to tell whether that period at the end of that text message was an attempt at good grammar or if the other person is just a jerk.
But proper punctuation isn’t the only thing subject to misinterpretation: Researchers with the University of Minnesota’s Grouplens project found that the way different devices and platforms display emoji characters could completely change the perceived meaning of a message.
The study looked at the perceived meaning of the “Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes” emoji (😁), and how people interpret it differently depending on the platform they’re viewing it on. (There’s no one true emoji font, so Apple, Google, Twitter, and others each have their own spin on emoji. If you want to see how different platforms render emoji, take a look at Unicode’s handy emoji chart.)
According to Grouplens’s research, the Microsoft, Samsung, LG, and Google variations of the character elicited a decidedly positive reaction, while the Apple variation drew a slightly negative response.
In addition, the Grouplens research team found that how people interpret an emoji character can vary wildly, even if they’re all viewing it on the same platform. In its study, Grouplens found that Apple’s version of the Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes emoji drew everything from very negative to very positive responses.
So if you can’t say it in words, and you can’t say it in emoji, say it in ASCII. 🙂