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Why 'Face with Tears of Joy' Emoji Is Now Uncool, Says GenZ

How does Gen Z laugh on the internet?
by Ara Eugenio
Feb 15, 2021

Gen Z has taken to its favorite platform, TikTok, to dethrone the world's top emoji, the face with tears of joy, saying it has lost its cool. 

It is also yet another dimension to the Gen Z versus Boomers narrative. The face with tears of joy is for the boomers. How does Gen Z laugh with emojis? On TikTok at least, it's the skull.

The face with tears of joy is the "tragicomic figure stuck between sobbing and laughing" that is "equally perfect for expressing the soaring highs of life and the depressing lows", according to The Verge. 

It's the most used emoji by real-time Emojitracker (for Twitter), Facebook's top emoji for 2017, and by its own maker Apple (among English speakers in the United States).  It was even Oxford Dictionaries' word for the year for 2015, despite not being a word.  

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But, why?

Well, for the young cohort, it's just "not cool" anymore. 

According to a recent blog post by Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia, the internet's go-to source for all things emojis, "it's common wisdom on TikTok that the laughing crying emoji is for boomers". 

"And by boomers I mean anyone over the age of 35," he said. 

For commenters on Tiktok, the once "acceptable way to laugh" emoji has now been replaced by the skull emoji that takes humor literally to the grave. 

When it's used, it means something is so funny a person has "died from laughter, therefore (skull emoji) = 'I'm dead'", according to Emojipedia.

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"I use everything but the laughing emoji," 21-year old Walid Mohammed told CNN Business.

"I stopped using it a while back because I saw older people using it, like my mom, my older siblings and just older people in general," he said, reflecting a typical characteristic of GenZs who reject the way of older generations. 

The power of emojis to define culture was evident in 2015, when lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries crowned it "word of the year". Its president Caspar Grathwohl explained that no other word  best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of that year. 

“Emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders,” he said in a statement. But now, in 2021, the generation that refuses to be defined is once again taking matters into their own hands.

Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch told CNN the "Tears of Joy was a victim of its own success."

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Emojipedia's Burge says there's no stopping anyone from laughing however they wanna laugh online. But on Tiktok, where young people make the rules, you can still "avoid being outed as too old" for the platform.

If you think you're also too old to use the skull emoji, just go with the 'Grinning Squinting Face' emoji for now, as it hasn't lost its cool—yet.

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And if all else fails: "avoid the need to show laughter in the comments at all. Make a joke in return, or simply hit that like button. This is TikTok, not Facebook, Grandpa," he said. 

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