BusinessWhat Role Do Emojis Play in Agreements and Acknowledgement Between Two or More Parties?

October 2, 2023

Let’s start with the basics, what is an “Emoji”? In simple and straight forward terms, emojis can be defined as animated images that represent expressions and emotions in any text messaging format. The most common platforms that utilise emojis are WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. It can be said that emojis definitely form part of modern language and communication.

When you think of the last message you received or sent this morning, there is a high chance that it was signed off with an emoji that serves as an expression of the tone of the message or the emotions of the person on the other end of the message. Emojis were introduced to the world of communication as an add on and it is fair to say that they were received well in a fun and exciting manner. Before the imagery format we now have, you may remember putting in a colon and closed bracket in an effort to express a smile or a sad face. 🙂 :(. As technology advances, so does our language of communication but to what end? How do they affect how communication is received and what implications, good or bad, are involved.

Where relationships are concerned whether professional, friendly or marketing wise, emojis serve as icebreakers. Your choice of emoji can make or break the tone and meaning of a message. In professional settings you will notice that organisations, more often than not, will always ensure to bring to your attention and specify their acceptable modes of communication. This became one of the major results of the Covid-19 phenomenon where organizations were adapting to unprecedented times and employees were more home based with less of the human and face to face interactions. The creation of WhatsApp work groups, MS Teams groups and the likes saw a rise during this time and therefore it was important that messages sent and received on these platforms were accounted for in the organization’s perspective. Official company notices and documents were and are still being shared and implemented in these communication mediums, especially due to the hybrid approach that was taken after the worst wave of the phenomenon was over and more people started going back to the workplace.

As one can imagine, human beings are always in a quest to make or find easier, smarter and effective ways to get their jobs done. How emojis come into play in a professional setting is where agreements and acknowledgements are then implemented. As colloquial as it may come across to respond to a message with the term “Okay” as opposed to the “Noted” in an email format, emojis serve a similar purpose with replacing “Okay” with a thumbs-up emoji “👍” to expressing acknowledgement of the message or so to speak, to agree or give a go ahead to the message received. In addition to this, WhatsApp groups have allowed “read receipts” which makes the administrator of the group and all other members of the group aware when you have received as well as have read or assumed to have read, the message.

In any context, whether in a professional or casual relationship, we cannot rule out the fact that emojis can be confusing on the basis that you have to assume what someone may be alluding to with their use of emojis as context plays a huge role in this instance. For example, if a message has a sad tone or is not particularly exciting news, the use of the two hands together may mean that the other person is sending well wishes and prayers to you as the receiver, but it has also been confirmed that the emoji may also mean high-fiving…you see? Confusing🙏

Another issue that arises when it comes to the use of emojis is from the fact that you may have context, however depending on how well you know the person you are messaging with, you may be able to tell how they mean to come across with the use of an emoji. There are people you will be able to tell when they are being sarcastic through the use of emojis and some that are using the intent of the emoji in a genuine manner.

It is also worth noting that the use of emojis may also be dangerous as much as they may serve as sweet or icebreaking gestures. Outside of the professional sphere, friendship or marketing sphere, gender and age play a role when it comes to emojis. Certain emojis, depending on age and gender may come across as harassment which goes back to context and the limitless ways the world of communication has opened up the platform to define emojis thus being lost in perception and translation.

This is all to say that emojis have some level of power to make or break communication lines and intent. They may go as far as affecting and challenging the court of law in instances where binding agreements are concerned, case in point:

A Canadian case where a farmer and a buyer communicated via text messaging and the use of the thumbs-up emoji was used and the ruling granted it as a valid acknowledgement signature to a copy of a contract that was shared in an image format via text messaging which meant that the farmer was agreeing to the terms and conditions therefore liable to fulfilling their end of the deal.

Click on the link below to read more about the case:

2023 SKKB 116 (CanLII) | South West Terminal Ltd. v Achter Land | CanLII


It is safe to say that, as much as it can be found hilarious, sweet and sarcastic to use these little symbols on our devices, there are disadvantages that are worth to be cautious about.

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