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Emoji Major No. 13: Your Emoji Life Coach

This week, before the holidays come and your issues get way too big for small emoji, Zoe Mendelson plays shrink.

Had emoji been born in an English-speaking country, they might as well have been called shrinks. They’re the very definition of shrinky, from their literal stature to the representation of Jungian archetypes to their utter subjectivity based on personality. It’s almost too easy to id-ego-superego out emoji…

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…or analyze a Freudian slip (drunk text) in the medium:


So, before the holidays arrive and your issues grow beyond the reach of small pictographs, welcome to the emoji shrink shack!

This week I turn Emoji Major No. 13 into Emoji Maven No. 1, where cartoons of tiny bananas and I will attempt to answer questions submitted by our beloved (and lost and confused) readers.

Because advice is always better when it’s adorable?

No but really, why not do advice in emoji? I figured it would approximate the way we often receive advice in real life: We tend to think it’s something totally cryptic or abstract, when in fact it’s simple and straightforward.

For example, it took me until last year to figure out that “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” just meant “You can’t have things both ways when those ways are mutually exclusive.” That’s a lot like reading emoji. If you don’t have the reference in your head or you read too deep, you end up either mired in the literal or mining for metaphorical significance.

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My editor’s husband (An illustrator! For god’s sake, the man deals in images!) provides a perfect example of this. He cannot seem to get the hang of reading the emoji. Sure I’d be able to show him the light, I sat him down with the lyrics to Lean on Me, which I’d written out like this:


Looking at my phone, he read out loud, “Pineapple goes left and right?!” No, the pineapple is leaning and the word on just means on. “Lean on!” Get it?

And so goes life advice I think. The dispenser always thinks their advice is way more straightforward than the person receiving it does.

So I thought I would just take the process and make it real: call for questions and answer them actually in code, symbols that the recipient can and will interpret different ways for better or worse. Maybe the pineapple does move left and right. Who knows? Sometimes a fruit is just a fruit.

With the disproportionate number of love- and relationship-related emoji (also, back to Freud, poo, too), I knew I would have a lot to work with at least for that contingent. The other thing that got me excited about an advice column was the cosmically convenient casting of the didactic-looking woman-with-her-hand-extended as the maven herself.

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But she’s just the face of the operation. The emoji aggregate provides the wisdom.

How big of a question can the little guys effectively answer? Were you wise to turn the unresolved issues in your lives over to them? Take a scroll through the slides above and judge for yourself.

About the author

Zoe Mendelson is a mushroom salesperson in Brooklyn, NY. She writes a weekly map column for UntappedCities.

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