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Is the Thumbs-Up Emoji ‘Hostile’? Gen Z May Be ‘Cancelling’ Certain Emojis

A hand in the shape of a thumbs up against a grey background

Can an emoji be “hostile?” It looks like Gen Zers believe they can. In fact, many Gen Zers reportedly feel attacked when the thumbs-up emoji is used in the workplace.

According to the New York Post, a Reddit user posted that they’re “not adult enough to be comfortable with the thumbs-up emoji reaction,” and many others came forward to lash out at other frequently used emojis.

The thumbs-up vendetta stems from the way that Gen Z tends to use the emoji as a joke.

“I only use it sarcastically, though sometimes I’m not even sure if the irony comes across,” 24-year-old Barry Kennedy explains to the outlet.

So, when a younger person in the workplace receives that emoji from a coworker, they often feel dismissed or even attacked.

Related: Here are the 10 highest-rated jobs by Gen Z employees: report.

Lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann actually advises against the use of emojis at work, as they’re often misinterpreted.

“[Emojis] can be interpreted as disrespectful,” Swann explains. “It can differ from generation to generation. Across the board, people want to know they’ve been heard and emojis do not convey that for everybody.”

Which emojis are ‘cancelled’?

Not only are some people offended by the thumbs-up emoji, but according to a survey from Perspectus Global, there’s a whole list of emojis that Gen Zers respond negatively to, including the red heart symbol.

In addition to the thumbs-up and the red heart, the list of “cancelled” emojis includes the “OK” hand gesture, the green checkmark, the poop emoji, the loud crying face, the monkey covering its eyes, the clapping hands, the lipstick kiss mark and the grimacing face.

So next time you go to send someone an emoji – especially in the workplace – make sure to keep in mind that not everyone interprets them in the same way.

You may also like: The people have spoken, and they want actual sex emojis.


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