A text with a means, "I'm totally psyched to see you, but you know, it's cool if you can't make it."
The New York Times's latest out of touch trend piece comes in the form of a dating etiquette finger wag:
I recently had to sit my friend down for a modern-day digital intervention. It wasn’t that he was using his phone at dinner, or that he was hitting “reply all” on e-mail threads, or leaving unnecessary voice mail messages. No, this was much worse….When [my friend's date] would text “I’m excited to see you,” followed by a pink heart, Michael would respond with a thumbs up.
Text messages notoriously resist translation. The Hairpin runs a series called Reading Between The Texts, for example, and Emoji Dick's cleverness hinges on lending rude characters to an eloquent text. (Check out some examples of emoji below.They're like elaborate smileys and other icons– different from emoticons. Image via.)
Unfortunately, emoji, which even their own inventor describes as unfinished, have never been decoded with the same scrutiny as text-only text messages. To fix this oversight, here's Nerve's emoji guide for the text message clueless.
Clicky Crab –
The clicky crab lends any message an air of enthusiasm and distance. It's like an exclamation mark followed by a shrug, not too dissimilar from the socio-emotional cadence of a long, hearty "lololololol." The snap of the crab's claws lend its message punch while the blinking eyes and rhythmically motile legs are the emoji's source of quirk. It's verging on ekphrasis. A text like, "I have a party on Fri, u shld come ," means "I'm totally psyched to see you, but you know, it's cool if you can't make it."
Spouting Whale –
The whale is an interesting case: more than any other emoji, it lacks universal meaning. Men who use whales in their flirty texts are showing that they're down to earth and approachable. Women who use whales are demonstrating their soulfulness. In the wake of Twitter's fail whale, texters of any gender might also use the whale to refer, cockney rhyming slang style, to failure. Derp Derp.
Lightning emoji meld fun with nostalgia and are engineered to conjure up childish glee. Like most emoji, they're slightly self mocking, sort of like repeatedly using the word "sick" in conversation. Using the same principle, more daring texters may wish to swap in a in lightning's place.
Caucasian Emoji –
Anybody who uses Caucasian emoji of any facial expression deserves to be banned from owning smartphones, permanently. Uncanny valley should be limited to dolls and CGI babies; phone screens are a safe space. GIFs, emoticons, and other rough built-in nostalgia devices exist almost purely to combat hyperrealism, and the infraction of this rule in the form of skin-tone blinky faces could only come of schadenfreude or ignorance.
Magenta Heartbreak –
This is a high level emoji. Its color is nontraditional yet sensible, demonstrating its user's emoji fluency without sacrificing adventure. The heartbreak symbolism is pretty straightforward, but like most emoji, its sentiment is ironic.
Pizza and clinking beers () are both used to convey, "Wanna grab some cheap eats?" But — and this is important — their implications differ vastly. I conducted an office poll to confirm that we've all unconsciously been using pizza emoji when we're texting friends with whom we'd like a more sexual relationship. The mildly erotic connotations of pizza probably have something to do with 80s and 90s sitcom conventions, in which fast food joints were the meeting place of teens looking to score. (c.f. Daria, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, etc.) On the other hand, the number of episodes in which Daria and her boyfriend, Tom, grab a slice is probably equal or lesser in number to the episodes in which Daria and Jane (the BFF) snack on 'za. () So maybe it has less to do with the teen date associations of pizza and more to do with TV associations in general. Pizza emoji are useful, in other words, because they're citing the proliferation of "like you like you" romances on television.
Heart Cat –
Wowza! Reserved for long time friends and lovers, to be used, unironically, only when warranted. One step more fluent than typing out *hug.*