In recent weeks, two Internet-savvy generations have clashed in videos and comments on TikTok about the hallmarks of millennial culture that are now considered inelegant by Gen Z. parts (Gen Z verdict: middle or bust) and perhaps most painful of all, the popular crying and laughing emoji that some millennials, including myself, use hundreds of times a day, or more.
“What about the laughing emoji[?]”One user asked in a TikTok comment. Another replied,” It’s so wrong. “In a different video of a woman saying she has stopped using it after learning that children don’t, a teenager commented: Yo I say you should use that emoji bc [because] we sure won’t. “
“I use everything but the laughing emoji,” Walid Mohammed, 21, told CNN Business. “I stopped using it a while ago because I saw older people using it, like my mom, my older brothers, and just older people in general.”
For many members of Gen Z, the skull emoji has become a popular replacement for laughter. It’s the visual version of the slang phrase “I’m dead” or “I’m dying,” which means that something is very funny. Other acceptable alternatives: the emoji (officially called “Loudly Crying Face”), or just writing “lol” (laughing out loud) or “lmao” (laughing my, well, you probably already know the rest).
Seventeen-year-old Xavier Martin called the “laughing scream” emoji “bland” and said “not many people” his age use it. Stacy Thiru, 21, prefers the actual crying emoji because it shows more extreme emotion and feels more dramatic. He said that he couldn’t even find the crying and laughing emoji on his iPhone keyboard.
A similar emoji, called “Rolling on the Floor Laughing,” is also out of date. When asked about that emoji in a video call, Thiru made a visible face. “I don’t like that one,” he said. “My mom doesn’t even use it.”
“Face with Tears of Joy”, the official name of the laughing and crying emoji, is currently the most widely used emoji on Emojitracker, a website that shows the use of emoji in real time on Twitter. It topped the Emojipedia list of the most used emojis on Twitter in 2020, while “Loudly Crying Face” came in second. And it’s had staying power: In 2017, Apple said the laughing and crying emoji was the most popular in the United States.
“Tears of Joy was a victim of its own success,” said Gretchen McCulloch, Internet linguist and author of “Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language.”
“If you state digital laughter for years and years in the same way, it starts to look insincere … Hyperbole wears off with continued use,” he said. This is why Gen Z may be looking for new and novel ways to indicate that they are laughing in different ways.
Members of Gen Z, born after 1996, grew up at a time when the internet was already ubiquitous and often in the palm of their hands. Some millennials, by comparison, remember a time before constant Internet immersion; many launched into the world of emojis and internet slang not through text messages or social media, but through AOL Instant Messenger. (Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, according to the Pew Research Center.)
Anecdotally, older generations tend to use emojis literally while younger generations get more creative, said Jeremy Burge, emoji director at Emojipedia, an emoji dictionary website. Emojipedia recently wrote a blog post that said, “It’s common wisdom on TikTok that the laughing and crying emoji is for boomers.”
Members of Gen Z told CNN Business that they like to assign their own meanings to emoji, which are then passed on to others in their cohort, often via social media. For example, the emoji of a person wearing a cowboy hat () and a person simply standing have come to mean discomfort. Others will string together a bunch of positive emoji, like stars, rainbows, and fairies, and then pair them up with something negative. “Our generation is very sarcastic,” Martin said.
Sometimes teens and twentysomethings use emoji, like the one who laughs and cries, ironically, like sending six or seven of them in a row to their friends, to exaggerate it. But, in general, that emoji is prohibited.
“For Gen Z, it’s like having an Android,” Mohammed said.
The media player video above was used in a previous report.
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