The Problem With Using Emojis When Dating - The M Word

The Problem With Using Emojis When Dating

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When dating and relationships, there is a lot to consider.

Fine after years of marriage when you are as familiar with each other as old socks and develop a comfortable insouciance that means you don’t need to shave as much (or together you may have soldiered through the trenches of vomit, having nursed a toddler through the night and had to wash watery fluids off the floor) but in the early days, the little, superficial things weigh a lot on the scales of ardour. The cut of his beard (we favour well-trimmed and sexy, not the ‘hello Wilson’ Castaway variety), the obligatory knowledge of Scorsese and developing a shared sneer at mainstream cinema or anything starring The Rock. Or being on the right side of the country and folk music spectrum (Johnny Cash, Woodie Guthrie) not the evil Nathan Carter side. Sharing the right type of vinyl with each other, maybe an early Bowie, unearthed in a tucked away music shop.

More importantly, looking like you care when he makes you reverently listen to said Bowie or maybe even Joy Division, Nick Cave. Discussions at 1am over a Bishop’s Finger or Late Knight’s Work Catcher, as you sermonise on the rise of grime music from jungle, rave and hip-hop. These are the details that matter in the early dating days.

Therefore, when it comes to emojis and punctuation, the horny devil is in the detail. Now, they are ubiquitous and there is  World Emoji Day. Emojis are everywhere? Right?

Even your mother uses them which is very uncool. A new musical on Broadway just being performed – Emojiland, hopes to bring to life the emojis we all know and love with a winking, kissing, loveheart face. Yet like hieroglyphics on a trip to the museum, we can have a wild, uneducated guess at decoding what they mean yet there is a code only the enlightened know.

Emojis may be used intergenerationally, yet both seem to be on different hymn sheets about the code, especially in the online dating world. An emoji in the wrong hands can cause all sorts of havoc and it is better to use old fashioned writing to say exactly what you mean.

The horny devil emoji apparently speaks for itself.

What began as an innocent message from a school father on a class WhatsApp group to signify the Halloween school closing time, now appears to be a terrible faux pas. He didn’t realise what a gaucherie he had made (he appeared a little too excited about the midterm break!) until it was pointed out to him that a mere smiley face emoji would suffice.

And did you know that the aubergine or eggplant does not mean what is means? What gives! My reliable sources tell me it is code for male genitalia. A shockingly clear message when paired beside a kiss emoji.

This is a useful nugget of information as a friend of my mother’s is on a recipe WhatsApp group and let’s just say, she may be at risk of permanently being exiled from the group – from here on in, eggplant is most certainly off the menu.

I will never look at Parmigiana in the same way again now doubt if I will order it in a restaurant. It is fair to say that punctuation can also asphyxiate or preserve a relationship, not least a sexual/dating relationship but family or work ones.

One friend told me that her mother kept using the CAPS lock and it meant their relationship was utterly tense for weeks. Why so angry? A work colleague of mine kept adding a dot dot dot at the end of her emails. ‘I will send on feedback when I get a chance to look at your report…’ or ‘I am unavailable to attend the meeting…’ A terrifying punctuation weapon. Did she have an alternative, hidden agenda? Three dots can be as sinister and deadly as an obfuscated World War 2 code.

When dating online, too many emojis or too many ‘xxxs’ were a huge turn off for one friend. However, another friend once told me that if they Tinder date was ‘smoking hot’, she was willing to overlook the overuse of kiss kiss kisses or the odd dropped apostrophe. What’s a little lack of proofreading between just good (wink emoji) friends? Hey, bad punctuation doesn’t have to mean no consummation, does it?

Then there is the usefulness of the Memoji. As you type your loveliness on tindr, your real self can sit unwashed and unkempt for days, sitting unflatteringly in your pyjamas, but your memoji remains ever quaffed and beautified, the sort of Dorian Gray of the online world. (My memoji has a better social life than me and I believe is currently partying with the beer and wine emoji!).

Most daters say most things can be forgotten if the person in question makes up for these shortcomings in their charm and sexiness. However, a guy once told me (he is an English literary master in university) was seriously put off my bad grammar, in the same way I imagine that a dental hygienist might take issue with bad breath. Another friend said she hated the overuse and abuse of the ‘tongue to one side’ emoji. It made her potential date seem a bit unhinged and she imagined he looked like this all of the time! Some months later, she had a fantastically satisfying relationship with a guy she met in a nightclub, yet once they exchanged phone numbers, the love depreciated significantly when she witnessed his appalling spelling and grammar.

Capital letters in the wrong place, no idea how to use a comma, mixing up his ‘theirs’ from his’ theres’, his ‘wears’ from his ‘wheres’. ‘How can I rely on him to find my g-spot?’ (I was exceedingly proud she used a letter of the alphabet to make her point).

It left me thinking – how on earth can a man seriously hope to keep his conjugal vows if he can’t conjugate a verb properly? Is it easier to understand the tone of a message with the use of emoji?

Which leads me to believe that dating nowadays is easier that the dark ages of the landline and a hastily scribbled drunken phone number on the beermat? Yet was dating of old less ambiguous or more? One couldn’t parachute in an aubergine over the phone so ultimately you were left thinking – who wants to touch whose aubergine? In the heady Love Island days, isn’t it refreshing to have ones devils and aubergines in plain sight?

Personally, I love the nervous emoji best. It works very well in for the Irish, with our catholic guilt hangover and also for the self-deprecating English. If your father just died in the night, you got set upon by wild animals or if you got a promotion/came into a fortune or finally married the man you were infatuated with for years, the nervous emoji works well in all the above situations. It skirts a line between tragedy and feeling you don’t entirely deserve the triumphs thrust upon you. Yes, I won at life, but I am kind of mortified to tell you that I have won at life. We can muse all day, so muse we shall, echoing the voice of Carrie in Sex in the City; ‘As I looked out into the New York skyline , I couldn’t help but think, what did Mr. Big mean by the dot dot dot

Fionnaigh O'Connor
Fionnaigh O'Connor
Galway girl, adopted Dubliner, online magazine contributor, literacy teacher, mother of one darling, sporty daughter and identical boys who are not at all creepy in The Shining sort of way.