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Is Romantic Success Related to Emoji Use?

The role of emojis in dating.

Romantic Emojis
Source: Yayayoyo/Shutterstock

Text messaging is now commonplace and has a huge influence on the way in which we communicate with others in terms of expressing and understanding what is being said. Text-based messaging is also a frequent method of communication in courtship, and in established or new relationships. However, to convey interest and affection, those in romantic relationships or potential relationships need to understand and appreciate how to do this. The obvious disadvantage is that text-based communication lacks any emotional content which might be conveyed in a person’s voice, and therefore the challenge for text messaging is conveying emotion while texting. To this end, emojis may provide a useful tool.

Today many sexual and romantic relationships begin via text message and the use of emojis may be useful in conveying intimacy between people. The way in which emotional closeness is conveyed may have implications for a relationship. For example, Altman and Taylor’s social penetration model of self-disclosure suggests that relationships progress from superficial to more intimate levels.

In their research, Amanda Gesselman, Vivian Ta and Justin Garcia conducted two studies where they investigated people’s attitudes towards and their frequency of emoji use. They also looked at whether indicating emotional feelings through emojis was associated with increased romantic and sexual experiences (Gesselman, Ta, & Garcia, 2019).

In their first study, the researchers examined emoji use with potential partners and the motives behind this. They also examined whether emoji use was related to the number of dates and sexual encounters people experienced, from over five thousand respondents online.

Respondents were asked how frequently do you use emojis to a date? and also reported why they used emojis in text messaging to a dating partner. Potential motives were:

  • They give my text messages more personality
  • It’s easier for me to express my feelings
  • It’s faster and easier than writing a full message
  • It’s trendy and other people use it

Finally, data were collected on the number of dates people reported having in the last year and their frequency of sexual experience in the last year.

The researchers found that the main motive for using emojis was that it gave text messages more personality. They also noted that respondents said that it made it easier to express their feelings and that it was faster and easier than writing the full message. Their results also indicated that people who used emojis more frequently went on more first dates and had engaged in more sexual activity over the previous year.

In a further study, the researchers examined whether the frequency of emoji use with potential dates was associated with increased intimacy. For this, they collected data on the number of first dates people reported having, and the frequency of sexual encounters. They also looked at second dates in addition to emoji use, intimate behavior and the continuation of this.

For this study, they recruited 275 participants online and measured CMC (Computer-mediated communication) Preference. Overall, I prefer to communicate with others through computer-mediated means, rather than face-to-face or speaking on the telephone. And CMC frequency How many of your daily interactions with others are computer-mediated.

They also measured emoji use, number of first dates in the previous year, number of second dates, and sexual behaviour in the past year. Finally, they collected data on peoples’ most recent first date and whether they had used text communication before meeting the person with whom they went on a date.

In terms of emoji use with potential dates, they found that only 3.3% reported that they had never used emojis. Furthermore, they found that the frequency of emoji use was not related to the number of first dates over the previous year. However, they did find that people who had employed emojis more often with dates did report a higher number of follow-up dates, more sexual activity, and a greater amount of sexual partners over the previous year. Those who used emojis were more likely to have kissed, had sex or had entered into a relationship with the person they had most recently dated.

The take-home message :

  • Emoji use is unrelated to the number of first dates over a year, which was the time period over which the researchers collected data.
  • Emoji use is associated with maintaining a relationship and having more sex in a relationship.
  • People who use emojis prior to their first date are more likely to be in an intimate relationship over a longer period.

The findings from these studies suggest that emojis convey important signals about emotional connections between potential partners and are ultimately related to more successful and intimate romantic connections. However, even though the findings appear to indicate that emoji use ultimately facilitates emotional closeness in relationships, we also need to understand how the recipient of such messages interprets the use of emojis sent to them. Finally, it is not yet clear whether using emojis increases emotional connection between dating partners or whether those more likely to foster emotional closeness are more likely to use emojis in their text-based interactions. Either way, emojis seem a powerful way to express our feelings.


Gesselman, A. N., Ta, V. P. & Garcia, J. R. (2019) ‘Worth a thousand interpersonal words: Emoji as affective signals for relationship-oriented digital communication’ Plos One.

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