How it was reported
The dating world has changed dramatically in recent years. Old romantics may bemoan the apparent decline of serendipitous meetings in bars or striking up a conversation on the bus to meet your life partner.
But the move to swiping left or right has been a swift one. And now the language of love has even transcended words, if reports last week are to be believed.
Two studies at The Kinsey Institute reportedly found that ditching cheesy chat-up lines in favour of emojis leads to greater dating prowess as well as success in the bedroom.
Or as the Daily Mail put it: “People who use emojis in text messages have more SEX and go on more dates than those who don’t, study claims”.
There were no frills on the headline for The Times’ version of the story, they opted for: “Emoji users have more sex”. Vice were similarly straight-laced with their own version: “Study finds that people who use more emojis have more sex”.
LADbible looked beyond the bedroom with their story. Their headline read: “People who use emojis have more sex and get more dates than those who just use words”.
But it was the Huffington Post who were the most playful with their headline, centring on one of the most suggestive emojis in: “People who use emojis have more sex, so bring on the aubergine”.
But is there any truth to the story?
It’s true that researchers found a correlation between emojis and successful relationships but the study has a few limitations that mean that a causal link can’t be made just yet.
The study, which was published in journal PLOS One last week and funded by match.com, hinges on two studies. The first assessed 5,237 single people in the United States aged between 18 and 94 and encompassing a broad spectrum of race and sexual orientation.
It also uncovered a split on emoji use, with 38 per cent of people never using emojis, 29 per cent rarely sticking in a smiley face and 28 per cent using them regularly.
And as for frequency, just three per cent of texters put one emoji in every text while 2.5 per cent used multiple emojis per text.The findings from this study were then extended to a second study of 275 adults aged between 18 and 71.
The academics concluded that emoji use with potential partners is associated with maintaining a connection beyond a first date and provides evidence that emojis convey “important affective information that is associated with more successful intimate connection”.
This study builds on previous research in the area, for example, by Rutgers University in 2015, when there were similar headlines proclaiming that “the more emojis you use, the more sex you have” as The Independent put it back then.
But before we can “bring on the aubergine emojis”, it is worth noting a few caveats.
Firstly, this study didn’t assess what emojis were used, largely because “the total numbers of which are quite vast”. That meant that they couldn’t pass on matchmaking tips and also couldn’t assess the “finer morphological features of specific emojis” and whether they had an effect, that is, whether the aubergine’s shape and resemblance to, you know, made a difference.
To be fair, some of the news outlets, most notably the Mail Online, did make note of this point. Another caveat is that the researchers could not assess causality, warning that future longitudinal studies will be needed to understand if emojis affect more global underlying neurobiological affective systems that can lead to love.
So it’s worth taking the more certain headlines with a pinch of salt at the moment. Maybe avoid spamming your crush with wink-face emojis for the time being.