No matter your emoticon style — whether you’re a less-is-more kind of gal, or you use more emojis to communicate than words— certain ones you exchange may be rubbing your guy the wrong way. In fact, there’s a good chance he’s hella jealous by that winky face your friend left on your Facebook wall, according to a new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.
Researchers asked participants to imagine being in a committed relationship and borrowing their S.O.’s laptop. (I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.) Not only is their partner’s Facebook page open, but there’s a message from a user of the opposite sex that says, “What are you up to later?” (Dun dun dunnn!) Participants were randomly assigned a message with or without an emoticon and were asked to react to the situation.
“Men were more jealous when emoticons — specifically winking ones — were included in messages to their significant other,” Dr. Denise Friedman, associate professor and lead study author said in a statement, “And women were more jealous when there were no emoticons included.”
While women reported higher Facebook jealousy in general, researchers think the gender difference in emoticon usage is linked to how men and women view infidelity. “Women react more strongly to signs of emotional infidelity, while men react more strongly to signs of sexual infidelity,” said Friedman. Because men tend to use winky faces as a flirting technique and women pick up on that, men may be reacting to the emoticons as a sign their S.O. is being sexually unfaithful. Meanwhile, women may react to messages sans emoticons as their guy being emotionally unfaithful, since emoji-less messages give off the impression there’s a more serious connection going on. (Of course, I could just be projecting.)
While this is the first study to examine the impact emoticons have on cyberjealousy (which, yes, is apparently a word now), it definitely won’t be the last. We’ve all flown off the handle over our partner’s Facebook usage at one time or another — whether he’s accepted a friend request from a flirty friends or comments on his ex’s new photos a little too much, Facebook creeping can lead to some pretty murky waters.
I barely have old school dating down, so the thought of having to worry about what emoticons “really” mean (you know, when I’m still getting the hang of legit facial expressions) makes me break out in hives. I think we need to treat emoticons like a foreign language: do our best to communicate clearly and fess up when we don’t. I mean, should my relationship end up on the rocks because one of my guy friends is an emoji-whore? Hell naw. It’s called context, people.