Am I Wrong to Judge People for Talking to Me in Emoji?

A cartoonish drawing of an emoji-style person, shown from the chest up, arms crossed with hands raised, surrounded by six smaller emojis.

Image credit: Jan Siemen

Advice columns are a consistently popular media feature, and there are many types—advice about romance, pet care, money management, workplace relationships, and more. Wired, a magazine that covers assorted aspects of cybertechnology, publishes an advice column about—what else—technology. In this September 2022 column, Meghan O’Gieblyn (writing under the pen name “Cloud”) addresses a rather snotty question about emoji, and her response may surprise you.

Read it here.


1. O’Gieblyn assures Wordsmith, the letter writer, that the conflict—if indeed there actually is one—really isn’t between words and images. How does O’Gieblyn reframe the issue? What elements are in apparent opposition with one another? In fact, are they really in opposition? How does O’Gieblyn finally resolve the letter writer’s question? Summarize her argument. Do you think it is persuasive? Why or why not?

2. O’Gieblyn starts out responding directly to Wordsmith’s question, but then she veers off into a longer discussion of communication in general, of the increase in AI-generated images and prose, the “specter of postliteracy,” and more. Why might O’Gieblyn have felt it important to include all of these points? Are all of her digressions coherent and relevant? Are there any that you would recommend cutting? Explain your reasoning and point to specific examples to support your ideas.

3. LET’S TALK Try to remember what you thought about saying to Wordsmith before you read O’Gieblyn’s reponse. What thoughts and ideas did you have on reading O’Gieblyn’s take? Work with a few classmates and discuss your thoughts. After you’ve all shared your ideas, take stock of the breadth of them. On which points are you mostly in accord? On which points not? At the end of the discussion, how different (if at all) are your group responses from O’Gieblyn’s? Have you heard anything from your classmates that challenges you to revise your opinions?

4. AND NOW WRITE Beneath O’Gieblyn’s column, Wired invites readers to share their responses to it. Accept the invitation. Write a response to her column (Chapter 12 of your text can help you with the task). You might want to assess how clearly she makes her argument or how well she supports it, and you may want to mention points that you definitely agree or disagree with. Your instructor may ask you to post your response here on the LetsTalkLibrary or elsewhere for your course, but please consider following through and sending your response directly to Wired as well; why not?

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