The šŸ˜¬ emoji is the best emojiā€”long live the grimacing emoji

Grin and bare it.
Grin and bare it.
Image: Quartz/Leah Fessler
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Emoji are wonderful way for us to communicateĀ all that mightĀ otherwiseĀ goĀ unsaid: brewing rage, feeling as busy as a bumblebee, a desire for hamburgers, sexual frustration.Ā But there is one emoji so universally applicableĀ that it stands above the rest: the wide-eyed,Ā grimacing emojiĀ šŸ˜¬.

Grimacing emoji as it appears on Apple products.
Grimacing emoji as it appears on Apple products.
Image: Quartz/Leah Fessler

According to Emojipedia, the grimacing emojiā€”approved as part of Unicode 6.1 in 2012 and added to Emoji 1.0Ā in 2015ā€”is ā€œgenerally usedĀ when a mistake or unfavorable situation has arisenā€”aka ā€˜eekā€™ā€!Ā But this explanation, while accurate,Ā underestimates the versatility, and sheer human poetry, contained in a simple cartoon grimace. In these awkward, uncomfortable times, we all feel like gritting our teeth in a straight line sometimes. Here are just a few reasons why the grimacing emoji is the best.

It lets usĀ acknowledgeĀ how anxious we are

From awkwardly misspelt Slack messages to meetings youā€™re unprepared to lead, and performance reviews youā€™d rather skip to assignments you shouldā€™ve completed yesterday, the grimace emoji allows us to succinctly acknowledge the stress and anxietyĀ we all feelĀ every dayā€”in a low-key way. As my colleague Sarah said, ā€œItā€™s a way to say ā€˜Oh god, I hope we donā€™t all die today,'ā€ and laugh at our own neuroticism.

In this way, the grimace emojiĀ also works to help us be a little more authentic with each other. In professionalĀ and personal communication, the pressureĀ to veil anxiety, stress, and grumpiness with fake enthusiasm is paramountā€”especially for women. But as Meredith Bennett-Smith recently wroteĀ for Quartz, ā€œResearch shows that forcing workers to appear more pleasant and more cheerful than they actually feel can lead to a whole host of negative consequencesā€”from emotional exhaustion to withdrawal.ā€ A simpleĀ šŸ˜¬Ā may not seem like much, but itā€™s a small way to dispense withĀ unnecessary facades.

ItĀ helps people navigate the awkwardness of asking for favors

All of us have to ask for things sometimesā€”especially at work. But we donā€™t want to seem demanding, entitled, or oblivious. Those of us on the receiving end of the request may be willing to do the favor itself, but would rather not do it with false enthusiasm.

Enter the gift of theĀ šŸ˜¬. Including the emoji after an askā€”or in response to itā€”is aĀ light-hearted way to acknowledge the burden being imposed. Thatā€™sĀ humbling for the favor-requester, and gratifying for the favor-recipient, as it shows respect for the time and effort involved.

ItĀ makes it easier to give honest feedback

Tough love can be useful to receiveā€”but scary to give. Worried weā€™ll offend our friends or seem mean, we too often hold back truths thatĀ others might not want to hear. But if yourĀ colleague is taking way too long to finish an assignment, your overly dramatic friendĀ needs a reality check, or if you simply want to declare your love for The Bachelor to a Twitter feed full of high-brow writers, nothing says ā€œsorry not sorryā€ likeĀ šŸ˜¬. It takes the edge off honesty with a dose of playfulness and self-deprecation.

Said simply, we are all the awkward, anxious, shameless grimace emoji.Ā Itā€™s time we start admitting it.