Bob Tamasy: For Relationships, Are Emojis Enough?

Monday, July 31, 2017 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
“Hi, I’m Emoji. You know me. I’m the happy face, or frown, people use to express their emotions, attitudes or moods on Facebook, a text, or an email. I’m a whole lot more fun to look at than ‘LOL’ or ‘smh’ or ‘:-).’ I like to consider myself an assistant – I help folks convey feelings when trying to communicate only with words through electronic technology. I also help to save people the trouble of having to interact face to face, eye to eye, and engaging in that bothersome activity called ‘relationships.’” 

Thanks, Mr. E, for your cameo appearance today. You’ve certainly become the face of social media. We’ll let you know when we need you. See ya!

Did you know that only seven percent of all communication is verbal – actual spoken words? That means 93 percent of communication is non-verbal – tone of voice, eye contact, body language, pace of speech, general appearance, and other factors.
Trying to effectively communicate electronically can be like trying to hammer a nail with one hand. Not easy. Hence, the emergence of emojis (emoticons) for expressing thoughts and feelings visually. If people can’t see us, how else will they know whether we’re happy or sad, angry or hurting, bored, dead serious – or just kidding?

I’m not opposed to communicating via text, email or social media. Being a communicator, I utilize these resources a lot. They’re especially useful for reaching out to people far away, and they’ve also helped me reconnect with old friends and former classmates. But electronic communication – even with availability of emojis – has shortcomings. It does little to enhance real-life relationships; in some respects, it can impede relationship-building.

We’ve all seen young people in malls, their eyes fixed on their smartphones, texting – sometimes to people standing next to them! Couples spend romantic evenings in restaurants, staring at their devices rather than conversing or gazing meaningfully into one another’s eyes. (Admittedly, my wife and I have done this on occasion.) On social media, even a shy, reserved person that never speaks up in public can seem the life of the party. 

People are finding it harder to make – and maintain – eye contact, one of those ingredients for non-verbal communication cited above. People have become accustomed to looking down. How can one sustain a conversation while constantly checking to see what someone’s posted on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook? An alert for an incoming message can quickly interrupt meaningful personal interaction.

As I’ve said before, it’s not my intent to denigrate electronic communication. It has its place. But God designed us for relationships, real relationships; not ones formed around bits and bytes, symbols and abbreviations. In the first chapter of Genesis, after the Lord created animals, birds, fish, other living creatures, and then mankind, there’s no indication He wrapped up His work by creating the “emoji.”

We see a premium on relationships in the Old Testament, whether it’s Joseph mending fences with his spiteful brothers; Moses prepping Joshua to lead the Israelites; Elijah mentoring Elisha to be his prophetic successor; David and Jonathan, and other examples.

We see this emphasis throughout the New Testament as well. After beginning His earthly ministry, the Scriptures tell us Jesus “appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). He enjoyed hanging out with them. 

And while providing on-the-job training to His followers for ministering to others, Jesus didn’t send them out alone. “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (Luke 10:1). They didn’t go with iPhones or PDAs.

Maybe the reason Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago was because when He gave His “sermon on the mount,” His audience wouldn’t be distracted by texting or video games. He had their undivided attention.

The apostle Paul underscored the value of relationships he’d established, writing how important they had become to him: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). Even though he was limited to the written word during his imprisonment, Paul wanted his own followers to understand the devotion to them, something that couldn’t have been conveyed through emojis – even if they had existed back then.

Despite the conveniences of electronic media, there’s no substitute for person-to-person, eye-to-eye, side-by-side communicating. In these challenging days, when our world seems in such turmoil, our need for mutual support and encouragement is perhaps greater than ever. The happy face of a living, breathing someone standing in front of me is always better than one appearing on a computer screen, a text, or a Facebook post. 

Proverbs 27:17 gives us this reminder: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Just as a blade is sharpened only by contact and necessary friction, we require direct, personal contact to become sharpened spiritually. When we need honing and sharpening for life, emojis just won’t do.

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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.

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