I am one who has been slow to adopt “emojis,” which, defined simply, are picture reactions or statements formed from images rather than words, and used in electronic communications.
It took me a few years before I started using any emojis. Until this very blog, I have never typed a semicolon with a parenthesis to indicate a sideways winking face, which was one of the first emojis. ; )
As emojis became more sophisticated and ubiquitous, it was still a long time before I used a “thumbs up,” or “like” emoji on Facebook. It was even longer before I started using it to reply to text messages. I have preferred words.
But the “like” button is a quick and easy way to say “Yes, I read your FB post and it made me smile.” And as I started receiving more and more “thumbs up” responses to my text messages, I saw how quick and easy those were too.
Still, I tried to keep it simple. “Thumbs up” was as far as I wanted to go. Anything beyond that, I would use my words.
Then I discovered the FB “love” emoji. It turns out there are some things I more than “like.” Especially now that for the last year and a half I’ve been worshipping with my church online, the love emoji has served me well. A “Passing the Peace” picture of someone heading off for their first day of school? “Love.” Two young siblings lighting candles at the beginning of worship? “Love.” The choir in all their digital glory? “Love, love, love.”
So for quite awhile the emojis “like” and “love” said all I had to say, emoji-wise at least. And if they didn’t cover it, there were still words.
Then I was diagnosed with Covid. That’s when I discovered the power of “care.”
The Facebook “care” emoji is a bit strange. That yellow circle with eyes, eyebrows(!), and arms that are wrapped around a red heart actually moves when you tap it, as if to hug the heart and draw it in closer. It was created as a seventh emoji at the beginning of this Covid pandemic. If you’re keeping track, the other six incude thumbs up and heart (the full extent of my previous repertoire), as well as laughing face (that one looks smirky enough that people often use it to express derision), surprised face, sad face with tear, and red angry face. I don’t think I’ll ever use those last four.
A Facebook representative said the “care” emoji was developed to give people an additional way “to show support for one another during this unprecedented time.”
Before I got Covid, I didn’t care much for the “care” emoji. It just looked strange to me. But when I shared my Covid diagnosis on Facebook, it was the “care” emoji that people responded with the most. Along with so many kind comments, i found that I was grateful to receive that “care” emoji.
I already knew that Covid is a lonely and isolating disease. But three weeks ago when I went into quarantine I experienced that isolation first hand. Day to day, I didn’t know which direction the symptoms would go. I worried about my sister and her family, also diagnosed with Covid. I worried about my housemate Meighan, who was taking care of me and trying not to get sick herself. I worried about the folks in my congregation who were worrying about me.
And through it all, I kept receiving messages of care. Cards poured in at a level that no doubt made my mail carrier wonder what was going on. I read each one and received the encouragement and compassion intended by the one who sent it. People called to check on my, texted their concern, and brought by food. One friend even mailed me some chicken noodle soup. And every time I checked my Facebook account, there were more messages of support. And more care emojis.
Social media at its best. In a lonely time, it reminded me I was not alone.
I am grateful to be recovering now. I am a full week past quarantine, and although some symptoms linger and recovery will take time, I am doing well. I am grateful that my case was a mild one. I know many who have lost loved ones to this disease, and many who are still dealing with “long haul” symptoms.
And again I, who have spent a lifetime caring for and praying for others, was reminded by the outpouring of care I received, how much it matters.
So in these last three weeks I’ve learned to use the care emoji. In fact, now I don’t even hesitate. I use it all the time.