Using Emojis: A Modern Social Communication Skill

Written by: Melissa James / Social Skills  / June 22 2017

A Blog Post from the speech-language pathologist at Well Said: Toronto Speech Therapy about communicating online. 

In today's digital world, so many of our daily interactions happen online and via text. From acronyms and abbreviations to emojis, it can be difficult to understand social communicaition skills when it comes to navigating these relatively new methods of communication. These skills are particularily difficult for adults who have ADHD, ASD or another executive function difficulty.

Reading this post will provide you with simple tips and training about how to refine your social skills in the online realm. πŸ”œ


Tips for Communicating Online

βœ”οΈ Consider who you are communicating with and the tone of your conversation partner. Are their messages accompanied by emojis or it is a more professionally toned message? You should generally avoid using emojis in professional contexts. This blog post is an exception!

βœ”οΈ When appropriate, emojis help us communicate tone. During a face to face conversation, our voice, facial expression, and body language communicate our feelings and tone. Over SMS and email, emojis can help to communicate nonverbal cues.

Consider how you would interpret these:

I don't know yet πŸ˜‚

I don't know yet 😱

I don't know yet 😑

I don't know yet😳

I don't know yetπŸ˜‰

Without emojis, the reader might not be able to tell the tone of the message. Emojis can help to convey playfulness, sarcasm, laughter, surprise, sadness, even love! Emojis also function to help avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings.

βœ”οΈ Understanding facial expressions is difficult for people with ADHD, high-functioning autism, Asperger's, social communication disorder, concussions and other executive functioning related conditions. If you are one of these people, pay extra attention to how others are using the 'facial expression emojis' and you can likely figure out what tone they are trying to convey by considering this along with the text itself. If you are still not sure after reviewing other evidence, you can use this resource.

βœ”οΈ More emojis equals more emphasis. Consider the different between:

HahaπŸ˜‚ and HahaπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

The second 'haha' is assumed to be a more intense 'laughing tears'.

βœ”οΈ Try not to use too many emojis at once. (since 3 is somewhat arbitrary).

I don't think so πŸ˜’πŸ€”πŸ˜¬πŸ™‡πŸ™„βœπŸ‘€

Using too many emojis confuses the reader as to what tone you are trying to convey.

βœ”οΈ Don't forget to consider what's socially appropriate and match your emoji to your words. Consider the following example.

I got the job 😊

Congratulations 😾

Responding with congratulations and an angry cat face is strange because 'congratulations' is socially associated with happiness for someone else's success or achievement. Try: Congratulations πŸ˜€ πŸ‘

Short forms, abbreviations, and acronyms are also common. Some regularly used acronyms that you might encounter over text include:

LOL: Laugh out loud

IDK: I don't know

BRB: Be right back

BTW: By the way

IMO: In my opinion

THX: Thanks

TBH: To be honest

Again, it's important to consider the context of the conversation and the person with whom you are communicating. These types of acronyms and abbreviations are generally not appropriate in professional contexts unless you've previously established this type of relationship.

Now that you've read this article, you are better equipped to have successful social conversations online. Try it out! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

If you are still having trouble or want to work on other domains of social skills training or therapy, please schedule an appointment with us. We can meet with you in person at our clinic, or online.