The 🙂 Is a Tiny Menace

It’s the nice-to-see-you smile, when it’s not nice at all

Danny Wallace
Published in
4 min readOct 4, 2019


A close up of the slightly smiling emoji.

On first glance, the “slightly smiling face” is a nice, friendly emoji: 🙂

It’s certainly gentler than its unhinged-looking sibling, the “grinning face”: 😀

But watch it at work in this text exchange:

Or here:

And what about in office communication systems like Slack, where it’s sometimes used as punctuation, but the kind of punctuation that can make your words instantly more passive-aggressive, creepy, or snarky?

Indeed, on closer examination, that slightly smiling face is a lie. It mocks us and throws us off balance as it purports to placate.

It’s the nice-to-see-you smile, when it’s not nice at all.

It’s the oh-good-my-ex-is-here-with-their-new-partner smile.

The yes-moving-that-deadline-a-week-earlier-is-a-wonderful-idea smile.

As with faces generally, it’s all about the eyes: These are fixed and empty, like an ill-intentioned robot. Look into those eyes.

Those cold, dead eyes.

Twin caverns gaze straight through you; soulless chasms that render the thin, closed-mouth smile strung weakly below nothing more…



Danny Wallace
Writer for

Author of “F You Very Much”, “Yes Man”, “Join Me” and more.