How often do you find yourself replying to a text, DM or email with an emoji… or five? With a suitcase of emotions literally at our fingertips, it’s all too convenient to defer to our iPhones for everything, even our feelings.
But at what expense does this cost us long term? Hiding behind playful emojis, gifs and even memes can be detrimental to our well being. Instead of confronting emotions head on and using actual words to convey feelings, it can be easier and less vulnerable to use humor as a scapegoat. But are people hiding a darker reality? It poses the question, Is using too many emojis a sign of depression?
We tapped licensed clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in training, Dr. Aimee Martinez, for the rundown on mental health in the digital age. She weighs in on quarantine depression, doom scrolling and why it’s crucial to set healthy boundaries with social media.
Early signs of depression might look different for different people. It’s important to be observant and curious if you are considering that you or someone you care about might be depressed. Consulting a therapist can be a helpful part of this process.
Depression doesn’t always look like sadness. It might just seem like something feels “off” or you’ve noticed a change that you “can’t seem to shake.” Things to notice: changes in sleeping or eating patterns, irritability (i.e. having a short fuse, losing patience easily), excitability (i.e. feeling extreme energy or restlessness—perhaps as a way of coping with the underlying feelings of depression). Having difficulty focusing and perhaps losing interest in relationships or activities that once felt pleasurable.
Feelings of depression might not always be emotional. Some people experience symptoms in their body via aches, pains and fatigue. It is important to remember that mental health is very much tied to the mind and body connection.
This is an interesting question. My first answer is: it depends. Emojis on one hand can be a helpful way of expressing feelings we might not have words for. It’s convenient to have a “feelings chart” at your disposal at all times! However, sometimes emojis can be used as a way to balance out an emotional statement. Take this text for example:
Person A says: “How you doing?”
Person B replies: “I’m super stressed, this pandemic is the worst 😂 ! “
The emoji used is not congruent with the statement. What person B is saying isn’t actually funny. B’s words and emoji use are incongruent—meaning the statement emotionally goes one way and the emoji goes another. I might consider that B is having some conflicting thoughts or feelings about expressing these emotions. Perhaps B is concerned that A might be judgemental, or that person A might ask more questions.
Sometimes we use emojis to cut off a feeling or conversation because it feels too vulnerable. This doesn’t necessarily lead to depression but it can be a way of dismissing feelings, which over time, can build up and lead to feelings of depression.
This is a big question that doesn’t have one definitive answer. So I will focus on just one point here, although there are SO many to consider.
I like to use the phrase, “lost in text translation” to describe what can happen in conversations via text that might leave someone feeling confused, dismissed, rejected, misunderstood, etc. It can often be difficult to discern someone’s tone when they send a text which can lead to problems in interpretation.