Mental Health

12 new-age emojis to express a coronacoaster of emotions

For something that is only experienced internally, feelings are still a shared experience — and one that's sometimes easiest to express with emojis, writes Jessica Brodie

28 June 2020 - 00:03 By Jessica Brodie
These new-age emojis sum up some of the new emotions and experiences we've had since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
These new-age emojis sum up some of the new emotions and experiences we've had since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Image: Carike de Jager

The first time it happened to me was when I heard the word hiraeth. A Welsh word for a type of homesickness, it describes the longing for a place that no longer exists, or for visiting a much-loved place from your past. 

It's one of those untranslatable feelings from another culture and it illuminated my internal landscape perfectly, encapsulating all the things that were melancholy and glorious about moving out of home in my 20s.

My parents had also moved away, and I'd often experience a profound longing for the sound of tyres crunching on gravel, heralding my mom's return to the house.

In these times, it's easy to feel hiraeth for the time before the coronavirus. When you are sipping a hot toddy made with Bacardi rum and wincing while also saying "this quarantini isn't so bad", it is easy to long for the time when you could buy any alcohol you wanted at any time, Fridays, Saturdays and, yes, even Sundays.

Fomo, coined by marketing strategist Dan Herman in the early 2000s, is arguably the ailment of our cultural moment, especially now that what we're allowed to experience is so curtailed. One of my deepest joys is that I am immune to it.

It's a concept that doesn't affect me, or it affects me only in that I experience its opposite. While my contemporaries are afflicted with fomo's heady mix, I'm on the other end of the spectrum. Blithely flaking on plans and instead curled up at home experiencing jomo. The joy of missing out.

All around my contemporaries are longing for a lightening of social restrictions, but, aside from missing my family, I believe I would be quite happy to have to be predominantly house-bound indefinitely. I seem to be built for lockdown. My social anxiety has never been lower.

"I know the feeling" is such a powerful phrase. Feelings are such visceral, subjective experience. An internal illumination set off by a combination of physiological response and cognitive programming. Depending on the trigger the resulting paroxysm can be intensely pleasant, or completely destabilising.

Yet, for something that appears to be completely self-made and only experienced internally, emotions are still a shared experience. Though they are ours alone, they are the same for everyone, actually.

But for something so visceral, the theory of feelings is frustratingly vague.

There are two well-defined aspects, the first being each human experiences the same basic feelings. Defining and understanding them is something humans have been trying to do since the time of Confucius.

"Emotion theory" is led today by Paul Ekman, the renowned psychologist. He named the six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear and surprise. Working with the Dalai Lama, Ekman recently produced the superb Atlas of Emotions, an online tool that presents the basic feelings as an interactive resource.

The premise of the atlas is that the universal emotions are common to all people, irrespective of their experiences, gender, socioeconomic background or time and place in history.

Representing moving, overlapping islands, the atlas reflects the fluid nature of emotions and mimics the way their strength and frequency vary from moment to moment. Within each continent of emotion, Ekman has expanded on the range of feelings, bringing the number of universally recognised emotions to 27.

Some of the feelings are expected. Enjoyment predictably includes ecstasy or joy, but there are a few delicious untranslatable ones, too. Few would deny having indulged in Schadenfreude, a German word for the feeling of enjoying the downfall or misfortune of others.

The source of the pleasure (which in polite circles we're supposed to find shameful) is actually relief rather than nastiness: that another person has been revealed to be much like ourselves - inadequate and unfortunate.

Fiero also makes an appearance. It's the Italian word for the deep, fiery pleasure of triumphantly meeting an excessively difficult challenge.

What's most interesting is where the emotions overlap to create more complex experiences. Schadenfreude is most clearly enjoyment overlaid with disgust, while fiero is a powerful mix of enjoyment and anger.

This more robust lexicon for feelings also measures how we feel on an axis of intensity. Within fear there are eight more complex feelings, ranging from trepidation as the least intense to terror, the most severe.

In mapping feelings this way the hope is that our emotional vocabulary will be broadened, as our understanding of our feelings becomes more nuanced.

To see it in action, the theory is remarkably well presented in Pixar's glorious 2015 animated film Inside Out. Beginning in the Plato's cave of the unformed self, the protagonist, Riley, a little girl, slowly develops the core emotions of joy, anger, sadness, fear and disgust, all of which are presented as opinionated characters.

The entire movie takes place in Riley's head. It's a truly psychedelic exploration of Ekman, Plato, and even the very adult theme of Robert Plutchik's theory of the importance of sorrow as a mental function. If you're into this stuff, it's a marvel.

So, how are we feeling today? While the core theory of emotions is mostly uncontested, what's not clear is how many variations and nuances they can produce. If all our feelings are constructed in our heads, then we can also de- and re-construct them to reflect our experiences.

NEW-AGE EMOJIS 

Sometimes words just don't cut it. These emojis sum up new experiences and emotions we've had since the Covid-19 pandemic began:

Spending hours and hours on your phone taking in as much information about the coronavirus as possible. This often continues late into the night, making you feel sick and anxious.
DOOM SCROLLING Spending hours and hours on your phone taking in as much information about the coronavirus as possible. This often continues late into the night, making you feel sick and anxious.
Image: Carike de Jager
The person who causes feelings of exasperation because they are either not taking Covid-19 seriously enough, or are taking it too seriously. Covidiots are lurking everywhere, failing at social distancing while also complaining about people walking in the park.
COVIDIOT The person who causes feelings of exasperation because they are either not taking Covid-19 seriously enough, or are taking it too seriously. Covidiots are lurking everywhere, failing at social distancing while also complaining about people walking in the park.
Image: Carike de Jager
The solitary pleasure of taking yourself out and doing all the things you like, and actually enjoying them. So, you can’t really date right now. That’s OK, learn to love yourself a bit better. Dinner and a podcast? Long walk and a takeaway coffee? Watching a ballet performance online? You’re on a masterdate, live it up.
MASTERDATE The solitary pleasure of taking yourself out and doing all the things you like, and actually enjoying them. So, you can’t really date right now. That’s OK, learn to love yourself a bit better. Dinner and a podcast? Long walk and a takeaway coffee? Watching a ballet performance online? You’re on a masterdate, live it up.
Image: Carike de Jager
A smoker’s preferred type of dodgy cigarette under the lockdown banning. As in, “Stephen usually smokes Camel but Sharp is his contrabrand”.
CONTRABAND A smoker’s preferred type of dodgy cigarette under the lockdown banning. As in, “Stephen usually smokes Camel but Sharp is his contrabrand”.
Image: Carike de Jager
The feeling of becoming confused because you've mixed too many different sources in your head, and while you're arguing passionately you're also sliding down a slippery slope and it's dawning on you, even as you continue to talk, that you haven't thought this through properly, you might be regurgitating someone else's argument, and you are, in fact, wrong
CARNUCHA The feeling of becoming confused because you've mixed too many different sources in your head, and while you're arguing passionately you're also sliding down a slippery slope and it's dawning on you, even as you continue to talk, that you haven't thought this through properly, you might be regurgitating someone else's argument, and you are, in fact, wrong
Image: Carike de Jager
When you are so hungry that you are reading the menu and you want to order a pizza with sushi and macaroni cheese but you know you don't want all of that, but you do want something desperately. This can render you unable to perform the act of ordering, all the while desperate for your hunger to be satiated
PERFORMANCE HANGXIETY When you are so hungry that you are reading the menu and you want to order a pizza with sushi and macaroni cheese but you know you don't want all of that, but you do want something desperately. This can render you unable to perform the act of ordering, all the while desperate for your hunger to be satiated
Image: Carike de Jager
Not the bank. The blowout. First Night Blowout. The massive surge of excitement that happens when you have been separated from your friends for a while, or you have just arrived on holiday, and all the excitement bubbles up and you drink too much tequila and end up at 3am sending your ex some "tasteful" nudes. Fail. This captures both the heightened excitement and the steep precipice to despair and regret, which arrive pretty much the moment you open your eyes the next day. Expect a pandemic of FNBs when we're allowed to go to restaurants, clubs and social gatherings again.
FNB Not the bank. The blowout. First Night Blowout. The massive surge of excitement that happens when you have been separated from your friends for a while, or you have just arrived on holiday, and all the excitement bubbles up and you drink too much tequila and end up at 3am sending your ex some "tasteful" nudes. Fail. This captures both the heightened excitement and the steep precipice to despair and regret, which arrive pretty much the moment you open your eyes the next day. Expect a pandemic of FNBs when we're allowed to go to restaurants, clubs and social gatherings again.
Image: Carike de Jager
Someone saying something to you that you haven't heard before, like referring to a cute small dog as "smol". This prompts you to correct them because that's not a real word, only to have them explain to you that "smol" is a "thing now". This causes you to trip over your own age and wonder if it was like this when you were young.
CULTURE TRIP Someone saying something to you that you haven't heard before, like referring to a cute small dog as "smol". This prompts you to correct them because that's not a real word, only to have them explain to you that "smol" is a "thing now". This causes you to trip over your own age and wonder if it was like this when you were young.
Image: Carike de Jager
Seeing someone else's well-curated life, whether it is their social media avatar or their, let's face it, grown-up apartment and taking it all in like sunlight and turning it into self-pity. You can't help it, you synthesized their achievements into a measure against which you find yourself lacking. You feel searing self-pity for the scale of your inadequacies.
PHOTOSYMPATHIS Seeing someone else's well-curated life, whether it is their social media avatar or their, let's face it, grown-up apartment and taking it all in like sunlight and turning it into self-pity. You can't help it, you synthesized their achievements into a measure against which you find yourself lacking. You feel searing self-pity for the scale of your inadequacies.
Image: Carike de Jager
A building sense of foreboding about something that is about to happen. The sense of a foregone conclusion that causes you to pause, knowing that what you are currently doing is going to cause regret. One can endlessly pregret a break-up, living with the loss of a partner while still actively dating them. Similarly, Tuesday night after-work drinks can kick off with a deep pang of pregret, because you KNOW before you've even slid onto the bar stool that you will be doing yourself in for the week.
PREGRET A building sense of foreboding about something that is about to happen. The sense of a foregone conclusion that causes you to pause, knowing that what you are currently doing is going to cause regret. One can endlessly pregret a break-up, living with the loss of a partner while still actively dating them. Similarly, Tuesday night after-work drinks can kick off with a deep pang of pregret, because you KNOW before you've even slid onto the bar stool that you will be doing yourself in for the week.
Image: Carike de Jager
Recognising excellence in your friend and being struck with the sense of how much you admire them, but also how much you want to beat them at their goodness. Their excellence inspires you to be greater yourself and in competing with them your companionship is made stronger. Occurs most often between sports teammates or work colleagues.
COMPETIONSHIP Recognising excellence in your friend and being struck with the sense of how much you admire them, but also how much you want to beat them at their goodness. Their excellence inspires you to be greater yourself and in competing with them your companionship is made stronger. Occurs most often between sports teammates or work colleagues.
Image: Carike de Jager
A by-product of having been inside for a few months. All this indoor time has resulted in the slow but steady expansion into our once roomy tracksuit pants. This is followed by a sister emotion, “jean fright”. This occurs when you attempt to put on your skinny jeans for the first time only to realise that you are far too fat for them.
FATTENING THE CURVE A by-product of having been inside for a few months. All this indoor time has resulted in the slow but steady expansion into our once roomy tracksuit pants. This is followed by a sister emotion, “jean fright”. This occurs when you attempt to put on your skinny jeans for the first time only to realise that you are far too fat for them.
Image: Carike De Jager

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