Too Many Frowny Faces? Blog 'Analyzes' User's Mental State From Emojis

Experts say real emoji-emotional analysis might not be too far-fetched.

ByABC News
June 12, 2014, 1:17 PM

— -- Can a winky face signal anxiety? What about a crying cartoon cat as a sign of depression? One Brooklyn copywriter decided to take on the challenge by “analyzing” the emojis of others.

Dan Brill, a New York copywriter for the Droga 5 advertising agency, launched a blog called Emojinalysis where he jokingly “analyzes” the most-used emojis, breaking down the significance of too many “weary cat” emojis or an overuse of heart icons.

Brill said he was inspired to start the site after texting a friend and realizing his most used emojis were pretty glum.

“I pulled up my recently used emojis. There was a bunch of distressed faces, and boos, I said, ‘Am I all right?’” said Brill. “It’s this weird window in to what’s going on in people’s lives.”

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Brill's site is in good fun and the 30-year-old admitted he is “the least mentally qualified person to analyze other people,” but experts said a psychiatric analysis of emojis may not be completely absurd -- especially as teens and other young people turn to the icons to communicate more and more.

Rachel Busman, a psychologist at the Anxiety and Mood Disorder Center at the Child Mind Institute in New York, said it is important for parents and mental health workers dealing with teenagers to understand the language of emoticons, emojis and other social media communication to be aware of their teen’s mental state.

“It’s an interesting question and it’s a good question because the age group of teenagers and tweens are using texting and emojis to communicate,” Busman told ABC News. “If you saw a kids phone, whether it had emojis or dark [text], I would hope that it would open a dialogue.”

Even Facebook has created a designated list of warning signs to help users identify if their online friends seem particularly upset. One of the possible warnings sings was the overuse of negative emoticons.

However, Busman said, for the vast majority of people, using of a bunch of unhappy faces in their texts does not indicate much about their mental state. Instead, Busman recommended that any user worried that their emojis revealed inner turmoil should instead take stock of when they use the little icons.

“Does [unhappy emojis] mean I’m sad or do I use them when I have something negative to say?” Busman said, as an example. “I think we can always be aware of how [we’re] communicating.”

Brill said since he started the site, he’s been overwhelmed with the popular response, which may have just changed the kind of emojis he’s been using recently.

“It’s been a pretty exciting couple of days," Brill said. "There’s a lot more happy emojis.”