Have you ever hidden a negative emotion while interacting with someone in person? Think back to the last time you received negative feedback at work, a Christmas gift you didn’t really love, or an off-hand comment by a family member.
This decision to hide negative emotions is known as a display rule, which helps define what responses are socially appropriate.
While display rules can boost interpersonal relations, though, they can also have an adverse effect– as people actively choose and change how they express feelings.
And as more communication moves online via social media, scientists have become particularly interested in the role emojis play while expressing emotions in different situations.
“As online socializing becomes more prevalent, people have become accustomed to embellishing their expressions and scrutinizing the appropriateness of their communication,” explained Moyo Liu, who recently published a study on this topic in Frontiers in Psychology.
“However, I realized that this may lead us to lose touch with our authentic emotions.”
For the study, Liu recruited a group of 1,289 participants who all used the most-downloaded emoji keyboard– known as Simeji– in Japan. The goal of the research was to determine how emojis were used to either express or mask emotions.
Prior studies have already revealed that people used emojis as symbolic equivalents of facial expressions. But, there was a difference between the emotions expressed and the emotions actually experienced.
This represents a major pain point with display rules– because if the disconnection between experienced emotions and expressed emotions becomes too large, people can become emotionally exhausted.