What’s Your Emoji IQ?

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Since written communication lacks nuance and can easily be misinterpreted, emojis have become ubiquitous in texting, Facebook posts and emails.   Adding a smiling emoji can turn a snarky message into a sweet one.

What’s an Emoji? 

Emojis  are small images, different from the old school emoticons – which are still popular because its easier to type a smiley face  : – ) than search for the right emoji to cut and paste into text. (Here’s a link to a Senior Planet article on emoticons.)

But using pictorial emojis is a lot cooler and will make a better impression on your younger family members, especially if you find some original choices.  It’s easy to find amusing and/or creative emojis.  In fact there’s a contest every year for new emojis.

Prior winners include ❤️‍🔥, 🤍, and 🥰. And 2022’s winner is… Face Holding Back Tears!🥹

Got an Emoji Idea? 

If you have an idea for an emoji, the organization that chooses them (yes, there is one!) opens the running for submissions in April; you have till July to submit and winners are announced in September.

Here is an article about how to submit your own idea for an emoji.   Be forewarned—you have to be able to draw your emoji convincingly and wade through complicated application rules on the contest website.

Are Emojis Ageist?

If you were wondering, there are emojis for older people which are relatively non-ageist.  (At least none of them include a figure bent over with a cane!)  See them on Emojipedia.

This does not mean that emojis aren’t ageist.  Most imply youth.  You have to search for older adult emojis. And Facebook eliminated their choices for avatars – similar to emojis – for older people with wrinkles.  Avatars are all young and smooth faced, although they do offer gray hair.

How to Impress with your Emoji Mojo

  • Download stickers for texting. Stickers are small images that are more detailed than emojis which are made for text messages.   You have a wider range of expressions with this sticker set for example.   Here is an explanation of how to use stickers with both Android and iPhones.   This article has links to  ten different sites where you can download stickers.
  • Use emojis to mark Earth Day on April 22nd  – here’s a list.  You may have to clue your correspondent as to what these emojis mean, since they are pretty tiny. But you will make an impression and help spread awareness.
  • Cut and paste emojis into emails or any other communication. You can search for the emoji you want, and use the link they provide to copy it.  The problem is most emojis are so tiny it’s hard to see them – and harder to figure out what they mean! For example here is a sad face emoji. 😒 If you want larger emojis scroll down  on the same page and manually cut and paste them.
  • Be prepared to make a fool out of yourself with your GenZ grandchildren. They have an entire vocabulary of emojis that make no sense to older generations.  For instance a USA Today article about Emoji-nal Intelligence gave an example of a 21-year-old college student texting her mom a skull 💀 emoji followed by a crying emoji 😭.  Her mom assumed she was in trouble of some sort.  She explained that her mom was out of touch.  “Apparently, the skull and crying face emojis now communicate that something is funny. It’s emoji-slang for “I’m dead,” which also means funny. Really funny.”  Her mom did not know that, and if you’re over the age of 35, there’s a good chance you didn’t, either
  • If you are afraid you’re using emojis incorrectly check out this Readers Digest article which explains the meaning of the most popular emojis. If you want to stay out of trouble, however, avoid the eggplant and peach emojis, especially together.

Emoji know how

The bottom line is that emojis are a lot of fun.   It’s a challenge to find exactly the right one  but when you do there’s a certain “yesssss”  feeling of satisfaction.   So don’t hold back.   Feel free to work on your emoji mojo!

Your Turn

Do you use emojis in your texts and emails?   Have you ever been stumped by an emoji?  Share your story!

Erica Manfred’s articles and humorous essays have appeared in print and online publications including the Washington Post, Atlantic, Salon, Village Voice, and the New York Times.   A self proclaimed Geezer Geek, now in her seventies, she specializes in writing about aging.  She’s the author of four books, including her memoir,  I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise; Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State.   You can subscribe to her newsletter at or visit her website at

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