May 16, 2024 - Business

The most misunderstood emoji of 2024

Axios Visuals: 2024-05-09-emoji-meaning
Data: Preply; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Eight in 10 Americans have been stumped by emoji use, according to a new report from language education platform Preply.

Why it matters: Emoji have become a tool for communicating quickly and visually, but varying cultural and generational uses continue to create communication roadblocks.

Driving the news: Preply surveyed 2,201 Americans from February 1-29, 2024 to better understand how people interpret different emoji.

  • The most confusing emoji is 💅, per the report.
  • While 40% of those surveyed use the icon to signify luxury or indulgence, others say it means "nail polish," "don't mind me" and "self-care."
  • The 💨 and 🙃 are the second-and third-most misinterpreted emoji in 2024.

Zoom in: Geographic location also plays into the confusion, the report finds.

  • The nail polish emoji is most misinterpreted by those living in the West and Midwest, while the dashing away emoji stumps those living in the Northeast and the upside-down emoji stumps those in the South.

Zoom out: Hand gesture emoji should be avoided when communicating with global audiences because they are often perceived to have very different meanings.

  • For example, the OK hand emoji is typically interpreted as "understood" or "perfect" in Western cultures. However, in Brazil and parts of Southern Europe, it's considered obscene, in Japan it signifies money, and Australian aboriginal people and some Middle Easterners view it as a symbol of evil.

Most people add emoji to their communications to appear funny or more approachable.

  • Yes, but: 48% of Americans have seen a misinterpreted emoji create an uncomfortable situation, found Preply's report.
  • And this is increasingly happening at work. In a survey conducted by Slack, 53% of workers said they use emoji in workplace communications, and 67% feel more bonded with a colleague who understands their emoji use.

What to watch: 118 new emojis will be introduced in 2024. Of those, the phoenix and head-shaking emojis are already causing the most confusion.

Go deeper: How emoji can divide the workplace

Go deeper