Don’t use this emoji unless you’re sure you know what it suggests

• The smiley face emoji is no longer cool :-/
• It’s the second emoji Gen Z has killed this year 🙁
• Emoji use is on the rise at work; here’s what you can use instead. 🙂

Using the smiley face emoji with colleagues may not give off the impression you’re searching for.

At first glance, the smiley face emoji is harmless: a yellow, wide-eyed animated circular grin that looks inviting, but it isn’t too creepy. For seasoned workers, it might be the only emoji use they can muster to connect with younger generations.

Yet despite its intended harmlessness, sending a smiley face emoji isn’t going to mean what you want it to mean to younger workers; it’s being dubbed as patronizing or passive-aggressive to teens and 20-somethings, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Basically: Gen Z has killed another emoji.

Inter-generational confusion

Here’s one account from a 20-something at an internship:

Hafeezat Bishi, 21, started an internship at a Brooklyn digital media firm and was taken aback when co-workers greeted her with a bright smiley face. For Ms. Bishi, the welcome didn’t seem warm but dismissive. She sees the image as conveying a kind of side-eye smile, not a genuine one.

“I had to remember 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 in a simple manner.”

To older people, the emoji signified a way to add lightness behind a message, like one cheerleading coach who said she stopped using it after someone told her that it came off wrong.

The Guardian also called for action against the smiley emoji, dubbing that the emoji is a “weapon of sheer blunt-force trauma” and that it can be perceived as hateful to some extent.

It’s a tool of passive aggression and dismissiveness. A smiley face emoji at the end of a message is a patronizing pat on the head from somebody who wishes you nothing but ill-fortune.

Finding the right emoji to use in any situation is like picking a meal on a diner menu — there are too many options, and just when you think you got it right, you start to second-guess yourself.

More emojis coming

A whopping 334 new emojis have been released in 2021. By next year, with an expected 107 new ones on the way, the total number of emojis will rise to 3,460. That means you have thousands of ways to miscommunicate, come off as uncool, or downright offend someone judging by Gen Z’s eyes.

The Smiley-face emoji.
The Smiley-face emoji.

For instance, Gen Z recently said the crying laughing emoji — also known as the “Tears of Joy” emoji — was deemed uncool because Millennials and older generations went overboard and overused it.

As workplaces continue to modernize and adapt to including remote work into the workweek, emoji use will grow. A recent study found that since the start of the pandemic, more than half of respondents (69%) started using emojis because it made them feel more connected to their colleagues. Ironically, the two emojis now “canceled” — tears of joy and smiley face — ranked first and eighth, respectively, on a list of the most popular emojis used while working remotely.

Does this mean you have to stop using the smiley face emoji with younger colleagues? That’s up to you, but if you really want to connect with them, The Guardian suggested using the skull-and-crossbones or skull emoji.

“It means: ‘I’m dead’ or, in boomer speak: ‘That’s so funny’,” the report said.