June 6, 2017

I can’t lie—I’m a big fan of the emoji.  If I’m talking about my propensity to make a pun in any and all situations, I’ll probably punctuate it with the “nerd face” emoji.  Or, if I’m asking my dog walker how Scruffy, well, performed, I might simply use a “pile of poo” followed by a question mark.  I’ve even been known to write full sentences sometimes: “Woman” (to represent me) + “Person lifting weights” = “Flexed biceps.”  And don’t even get me started on Bitmojis…

The caveat here is that I only use emojis to this extent with people I know (and who I know already like me and hopefully find me to be an intelligent person).  If I were texting with someone for the first time, I wouldn’t go overboard, and a study that came out last month shows that keeping your emoji game close to the vest at the beginning—specifically in your online dating profile—might just be the right way to go.

The Edmonton Journal published an article called “People Who Use Many Emojis in Online Dating Profiles are Perceived as Less Intelligent.”  From the article, “The experiment included seven types of profiles for participants to evaluate. One of them, the control, contained no emojis.  Another consisted almost entirely of emojis.  In the rest, emojis were used sparingly, randomly, redundantly and to replace words.  Each of 692 heterosexual participants received one randomly assigned profile.  Participants were asked to rate the profile owners’ traits, including intelligence, and indicate their level of interest in dating the person.”

The study concluded that the profile that had the most emojis with the shortest amount of text (14 emojis) was rated as significantly less intelligent than the control group or any other profile type, thereby deterring the reader from matching, writing, or wanting to date this person.

The study, unfortunately, didn’t delve into why people associated excessive emoji use with lower intelligence, but I might hypothesize that emoji use here is analogous to “text speak,” in that it’s a shortcut.  Do I personally judge people who use “ur” rather than “your” or “cu” rather than “see you” as less intelligent?  For better or worse, I do.  Both are types of shorthand.  It’s one thing if you know the person at the other end does have a handle on the language and is simply playing with it.  But, it’s another if this person is new, and the first impression is that he or she is lazy (by taking shortcuts) or doesn’t have a grasp on language.  Also, because emoji lexicon is fairly new, using many of them gives off the impression of someone being less mature.

Interestingly, in the study, the profile types that contained two simple emoticons and redundant emojis, which complemented but did not replace the text, tended to be perceived as more intelligent, compared to the control.

As a final note, this experiment was far from perfect.  There were about four times as many women as men.  In my experience as a dating coach, women get more leeway in using emojis than men.  When men use too many, or even a simple smiley face emoticon, it’s often perceived as less masculine.  Also, the average age of participants was 20 years old, far below most readers of this article and certainly the clients I work with.

Regardless, if you’re going to take anything away from both this study and this article, it’s to use your emojis sparingly, if at all, in your profile.  For example, if you’re writing your Bumble profile and considering using a string of emojis to tell your life story, please reconsider.  Wait until you get to know someone to show your “face with tears of joy” or “eggplant” (I take that back… never show your eggplant) for the world to see.

Emojis and Online Dating: A Match Made in… Face with Rolling Eyes + Pile of Poo

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