Using Emojis as Reactions on Zoom

Noa Yaari, Kissing Emojis on Zoom, 2022. Toronto.

On my December post, I was wondering if the engineers at Zoom can create shadows as a function in Background & Filters. This would add a realistic element to the filters that they already introduced into the platform. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts about the application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom, and in turn, their functionality.

The inclusion of emojis on Zoom opens new possibilities of communication through screens. Unlike their use in text messages or emails, however, their use on Zoom mostly takes place within a conversation, or after a live presentation. In principle, the visual reaction they embody follows spoken words, and may be followed by these or other emojis. What does the ability to “react” through an emoji to spoken, usually fast, communication do? And what can the hundreds of emojis on Zoom offer us in this context?

The ability to react through emojis relates to their amount on the platform. On the one hand, the availability of numerous, various emojis gives the feeling of freedom; since there are so many of them, the only thing that is required from the user is to know what they wish to express and choose the right emoji. The user ought to trust that whatever their message may be, there is an emoji in the collection that can utter it effectively.

On the other hand, the high number of emojis and the minor nuances between them may confuse the user, especially if they prefer to react in a timely manner. For example, note the difference between “kissing,” “kissing­_smiling_eyes,” and “kissing_closed_eyes” (see image above). Imagine yourself using one of them on Zoom; which one would you choose? Which among the three would be closer to what you feel and want to share?

The application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom raises questions about how the company sees the activity on its platform. The emojis of “raise hand” and “clap,” for instance, are elegant visual solutions for a speaking environment. Moreover, they have become icons that can easily symbolize a period in our history. As such, their functionality goes beyond the platform, creating cultural codes on a global scale. How does Zoom see the functionality of the many other emojis? In other words, how does it see its users finding the time – the right time – to use them?   

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