COMMENTARY: The Stress Over Emoji Usage for Different Generations, by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

Oct 17, 2022 at 07:00 pm by WGNS News

COMMENTARY: Different generations are having fits over emojis, some even suggesting they are “Majorly Concerned.” With a look at this odd situation, here is MTSU Professor of Journalism, Dr. Larry Burriss…


Commentary (Verbatim of Above Audio) - Remember the old television comedy series, “That Was The Week That Was”? Well, last week was certainly a different week that was.

It seems several news outlets breathlessly reported Generation Z is upset about some emoji in fairly common use. Emojis like the thumbs up and the red heart, readers, viewers and listeners were told, were signs of being old and, even worse, passive-aggressive.

The articles then went on to quote, using sometimes undecipherable user names, three or four Gen-Zers who are apparently damaged for life because of the silly little icons. And these same people want us, that is, my people, to stop using them in order to avoid future mental distress

And by the way, if you don’t know, members of Gen-Z are people born between 1997 and 2012.

So here are a few questions I have.

Who decided what these Gen-X, Gen-Z, millennials, or whatever are? And, perhaps more importantly, why are we listening to these so-called experts anyway?

Next question, if a 10-year-old is upset by what I use in my e-mails, should I really care? And, perhaps mor importantly, if a 10-year-old is mentally distressed by a thumbs-up icon, I think they are in need of some serious mental health care.

But then I saw news reports saying some Gen-Z people are upset by the news stories implying their generation is overly concerned about screen icons rather than more serious global issues, and demanding an end to those stories.

And these were followed by the obligatory stories discounting those stories.

Obviously I’m doing the same thing these people are doing. But here are some different questions: why are we letting anyone decide for us what words and symbols mean? Why are we responding to them in the first place?

Why was a computer-generated symbol that was ok one day, was not ok the next?

And if they say we should stop ruining their lives, why don’t we tell them to stop trying to ruin ours? -  I’m Larry Burriss.

About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth. 

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.

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