Emoji-Riddled Condolence Texts And Other Modern Annoyances

Emoticons and grief don't mix well.
Publish date:
November 13, 2013
death, etiquette, grief, condolences, technology, sympathy

Read more from Hannah on xoVain.

I'm a fan of technology. I recognize the conveniences and opportunities that it has afforded me, being a young person in the 21st century, and for me to rally against it like some grumpy curmudgeon would be totally hypocritical.

However, there are times when technology really gets on my nerves.

There was recently a death in my family, the third in three years, and I knew that when people found out they would resort to texting, e-mailing, tweeting and Facebooking me to offer their condolences. I was fine with that. I've done the same thing. I was grateful to my friends who offered me heartfelt and genuine messages of sympathy. I was touched by comments from strangers online. What did bother me, though, were the bizarre, perfunctory seeming emoji-laden texts I received from a number of people.

Yes, emojis. Those cute little cartoon faces and icons that hilariously fit into various tweets and Instagram captions. In the days following my loss, I received texts with tiny cartoon crying faces and shiny, red broken hearts. Reading these texts, I did not feel comforted. I did not feel touched. I looked down at a screen and saw a tiny yellow face with blue lines streaming down its cheeks.

Was I to believe that the senders of these texts were looking down at their iPhones, faces stained with salty tears, screaming in immortal pain with sympathy for me? No, that would be really weird. So why the choice of emoji? Why any emoji at all? Why not a simple "I'm sorry for your loss"?

Am I crazy to feel that my family member's death was being trivialized by such a throwaway response? Because what I felt when reading these messages wasn't, "I'm deeply sorry for what you're going through and I'm here for you," but rather, "That sucks that that happened to you, but it doesn't really have anything to do with me."

If it wasn't emojis, it was a text with a quick line of condolence followed by an awkward segue into asking me out on a date, all in two sentences. Yeah, sorry. Not interested right now, pal. Truly, I wish the people who chose to reach out this way had said nothing. I would have preferred radio silence.

I recently met up with a friend who I have known for years and years. We got to talking and I found out he had also lost a family member this past summer. He told me that he chose to leave me alone online on purpose, because when he was going through the same thing he didn't want to talk to anyone either.

He had made the choice to reach out to me in person instead, something I find so totally rare nowadays.

People prefer the convenience of a screen to a face because it's less intense. They don't have to worry about the awkwardness of seeing someone cry or the obligation to hold them.

But going through this the past month has made me realize that the people who are willing to talk, to listen, to see you ugly cry and to hold your hand -- those are the people I want around. And I'm so grateful they've made themselves present.