Now that any online dating experience will eventually escalate to mobile messaging (whether What’s App, iMessage, or How About We’s app), it’s not enough to have mastered the English language. We live in an emoji world now. Originally added to iOS for Japanese teenagers, the diverse set of smileys is now used by people of all ages around the world. Emojis can function as avoidance, word substitution, or whimsy. But just as you choose your words carefully, you wouldn’t want to fling the octopus symbol around with abandon. Your latest Tinder match might assume you’ve got a fetish.
In his New York Times column, Nick Bilton recounted his friend’s emoji mishap, in which the woman involved would type flirtatious messages via emoji (the flamenco dancer, a martini) and her male counterpart responded with the thumbs-up icon. While the guy thought he was responding positively, the girl assumed she was being prodded into the friend zone. Some emojis are ambiguous, and they should be used with awareness of the situation. Our brief guide:
If You’re Flirting With A Coworker: An emoji might provide the perfect edge of innuendo if you’re not sure where a workplace interaction is going, as it can be interpreted as fun and flirty, or simply friendly. She texts: “Lunch on Wednesday?” You respond: “[bullseye emoticon] Yes, where?” Let the games begin.
If You Want To Be Just Friends: If you want to be just friends, stick to the rice ball emojis. JK no, if you actually want to keep someone in the friend zone, try a wacky combination of emojis, like your mother might do. Top hat plus breaking wave plus chocolate chip cookie plus lantern. Alternatively, nothing says “ole buddy ole pal” like the pink pig snout. Use that liberally.
Apologizing: If you’re rescheduling a date or running late, send an apologetic message: “Will be 15, so sorry. You deserve lots of [bon bon emoji] for putting up with me.” Sweeten the deal, so to speak.
Post-Second Date “I’m Thinking Of You” Text: Emojis say “I’m thinking of you” without spelling it out and getting too serious. Reach out with some falling leaves or a reference to your most recent conversation. Because it’s not a pointed comment or question, your date has space to answer when they feel like it, you don’t have to stress out, and with luck on your side, you’ll start a fun back-and-forth.
Booty Text: This is tricky, because you want to hit the line between playful and nonchalant. Try ice cream cone plus tongue emoji, followed by a question mark, suggesting dessert and other forms of sweet tongue pleasure. Or if you want to be a bit more daring, go for snide smiley plus flame, then a question mark. It’s all about the power of suggestion.
Denying Said Booty Text: Don’t go so far as the Do Not Enter emoji. Saying “Work early [stack of books emoji] [ambiguous flatline mouth smiley]” is a denial but not a complete shut down. Your hook-up may not contact you again, but if you want to reach out later, you haven’t severed the connection completely. Or, to be a bit nicer about it all, just write “I’m sorry, can’t tonight,” with a reassuring flower emoji at the end. He/she will feel denied but slightly, strangely honored.
Sexting: Thankfully, the tongue, spit, and various hand emojis are perfect for explicit texting. They save you from having to decide on specific verbs, and generally provide a low-energy response option. He says: “Where do you want me?” You write: “[mouth emoji]” ‘Nuff said.
There are times when an emoji should definitely not come into play. For example, when announcing STD results. Or confronting a pregnancy scare. In fact, steer clear of the baby bottle emoji until you get used to handling an actual one.
If your partner frequently uses emoticons, don’t feel like you have to respond in the same style. The point is to communicate in a playful, efficient manner, and if you flirt better with correctly spelled, perfectly punctuated sentences, own that. As the relationship progresses, you might start to feel freer to experiment as you’ll be able to predict your partner’s reaction. And when you get to the stage of exchanging x’s and o’s, it can’t hurt to spice things up with a starry heart, or even a horned dragon.
This post was originally published on How About We’s blog The Date Report. More: