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The Dare: A week without emojis

Emojis are fun, and funny, and that’s why we use them. That’s why I thought I used them. But is it possible we use yellow faces because we actually have yellow bellies when it comes to getting real? Have emojis stripped us of our ability to use our words when we’re, you know, feeling things?

With the release of iOS 9 last fall, the world was introduced to new emojis, including a burrito, a unicorn, and a raised middle finger. Preteens and emotionally delayed adults across the globe rejoiced.

As a writer, I’d like to think that I am able to convey my feelings without pictorial aid. I’ll be the first to tell you that emojis are, at their core, quite silly. However, silly or not, I decided to test myself. How well would I get by without typing a single emoji for a week?

I will admit to backspacing a few peace-fingers and hearts before hitting send. The use of emojis, like smoking, or crying when you hear Bon Jovi’s Always, can become habit-forming. Early in the week, the first miscommunication transpired. My partner texted that he had to cancel dinner plans. “Ok. No problem,” I typed back, and resumed my Netflix selection.

“You mad? You’re mad …” Those were the words of a man who feared he’d committed a mortal sin in not joining me for pizza. My response, devoid of any smiley face, must have come off cold.

“No, no! I’m smiling!” I wrote back. This marks the first time I have ever told anyone what my face was doing via text message.

I continued doing this. I wrote to my colleague that my eyes were “actually watery” when she told me about her sick dog. I typed to my sister that my face was red from laughing after looking at a meme she’d forwarded. I actually typed the words “poop emoticon” to a friend indicating disappointment about a hike threatened by rain. I said “thumbs up!” to my landlord, and immediately wanted to crawl into a hole, because … who says that?

I felt ridiculous. But it was working. Nothing was getting lost in translation with the absence of the emoji. All I had to do was describe my face, or my hands, or a heap of feces, and everything was fine.

But this got me thinking. With the middle-finger emoji at my fingertips, and the week being up, I’ve decided that I’m going to think twice before I use it. Not only because my mother raised me to be a lady (wink face), but because I’m capable of communicating without it. “Here is why this makes me mad …”

Emojis transmit tone, pave the way for passive aggression, and sometimes relieve of us our duties, to ourselves and to others, to be open about what’s really going on behind our touch screens. If we must text — and it seems that we must, during dinner, in the bathtub, at the gym — let’s at least get honest when we do.

The burrito, though? I’ll still use that. It’s a great way to tell people I feel like sleeping in.