Policy on smileys?

Is there a policy about using smileys in questions/answers? I am especially concerned by the colored icons, rather the more traditional ascii combinations.

I only started to see smileys recently on MSE, and I feel they add annoying noise the mathematical contents.

I tend to remove them, but I would like to know the opinion of the community about this. Should they be tolerated?

• Personally, I am in favor of not using emojis.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 19 '19 at 21:22
• As someone who occasionally slips into my habits from Discord and other forums and posts a " :) " or something of the sort: I honestly probably wouldn't even notice. Granted most of the time I do it is in the comments, but if I did it in a post and it was removed, I likely wouldn't notice and more likely wouldn't care. Like you said, it's fluff in comparison to the actual content. Of course at the same time it's not like it's doing a lot of harm either so I wouldn't actively seek out posts with emoji/emoticons either. Apr 19 '19 at 21:42
• @AsafKaragila 😒
– user296602
Apr 19 '19 at 22:19
• I'm not bothered at all by smileys. It's ok to express a little personality if people feel like it. Apr 19 '19 at 22:56
• It is rare that I have the opportunity to quote Emperor Cartagia: "Humor is such a subjective thing". I find it sufficiently difficult to understand what people write. I don't need icons. Moreover, the meaning of icons vary (dramatically) across the planet. Apr 19 '19 at 22:57
• Very recently on this meta (now deleted): Can we have a forum on these: 🌟 emoji things?. In the comments, this Meta Stack Exchange post was linked: Do we want emojis in posts? Apr 20 '19 at 4:19
• But how else can we express our frustration with users who don't upvote answered questions? ლ(ಠ益ಠლ) Apr 20 '19 at 6:45
• If only this was our biggest problem! ;) Apr 21 '19 at 0:23
• @RobertSoupe indeed. There are way much more important things to focus on than just insightful little funny faces around questions/answers
– user486983
Apr 22 '19 at 17:21
• MSE is certainly no place for smiley, emotion, or humor. Students must learn that the only way to learn math is to crush all aspects of your humanity. They must learn that to become a computer is their only hope. And definitely NO SARCASM allowed! Apr 22 '19 at 22:01
• @AsafKaragila it promotes healthy conversation like here: $$\huge \ddot \smile$$ Mathematicians ain't weird introverts who are dry and don't smile or grin' ain't they? XD
– user427802
Apr 23 '19 at 7:32
• @AbhasKumarSinha: I am guessing that young people today do not understand the difference between "emojis" and "emoticons". That being said, I have always had a strong distaste for XD, and I do find it to somehow cheapen the conversation. I would personally be more inclined clearing off-topic comments that have XD at the end compared to a tame :).
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 23 '19 at 7:36
• @AbhasKumarSinha a difference is that a simple :-) should display everywhere. Right, a 😀 will display at many places but 😺 it's already tricky. The way how it is displayed might also vary significantly. Plus, the situation is similar to using text speak. Some things are very well-known, but with somewhat more exotic things it becomes tricky to understand what is even meant. Does it really help conversation when a third of us won't see the symbol and another third won't get the meaning? (The latter is also an issue for more elaborate ASCII stuff.)
– quid Mod
Apr 23 '19 at 15:25
• @quid 😯😢💡🤔👐🙏
– user427802
Apr 24 '19 at 10:51
• What's next, pushing for community specific emojis? I better get notified for the emoji election... 👀 May 8 '19 at 17:00

Personally, I don't like emoticons or emojis at all. Nevertheless, the policy I'd suggest is to only remove them (if you feel like it) if you are otherwise editing the post. Specifically, I would not recommend editing a post just to remove emojis/emoticons. This seems in line with the "policy" for "thank yous".

As far as I can tell, removing emojis/emoticons either:

1. Makes no substantial change to the post, or
2. Makes a substantial change to something that should probably also be removed, e.g. to clarify that something isn't serious, but then that something can probably also be removed.
• My vague impression is that adding emojis/emoticons is actually harmful to getting your question answered. Apr 19 '19 at 23:29
• +1 This seems like a reasonable solution.
– Xander Henderson Mod
Apr 20 '19 at 5:02
• Reasonable, indeed. I will refrain from just removing emojis and will only remove them as a part of another edit. Seems to be a good compromise. Apr 20 '19 at 18:03
• I basically agree with this. I'd stressed though that I think that excessive use can and should be removed. Same for "thanks" by the way. Please, please, with sugar on top please keep that in mind I beg you please. Thank you in advance, thank you. I'll be for always grateful for sure. Thank you, really from the bottom of my heart. Thank you! 😀 😀 😀 😺 😺 😺 😺 😺 😺 😂 😂 😂 😂 🙃 🙃 🙃 🙃 🙃 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛
– quid Mod
Apr 20 '19 at 19:07
• @quid Should I flag this comment ? Apr 21 '19 at 6:17
• I think the point regarding excessive use should be more-or-less evident and consensus. You could include a brief remark regarding this in the question. In the sense that you ask about moderate/reasonable use. I don't think there can be debate that if there is a post with many, many symbols it should be removed. Then you can flag as "no longer needed."
– quid Mod
Apr 21 '19 at 8:52
• I should also stress that emojis should not appear in titles.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
Apr 21 '19 at 11:46
• Personally, I don't even like that such a proliferating number of emojis has flooded (and continues to do so) the code point space of Unicode. And the movie was awful, too Apr 22 '19 at 9:26
• @HagenvonEitzen: There are currently about 3,000 emoji, including multi-character sequences. But there is a total code space of approximately 1.1 million possible code points. By comparison, there are about 87,000 assigned code points for the CJK languages (after Han unification). So I would not (yet) be concerned about depleting the available code space by mapping too many emoji. As for the film: It was quite bad. Apr 22 '19 at 16:35
• @user1729 sorry, but that was the point of it in a way. I hope it did not break it too badly. I added some spaces, at least there should not be major disruption now. Of course some might just show as empty boxes, as they do on my phone.
– quid Mod
Apr 23 '19 at 15:15
• @quid no need to edit. I just thought you might be interested to see how much disruption your emojis had caused. :-) Apr 23 '19 at 16:38

I am in favor of letting people express themselves with smileys. :-)

• A judicious smiley can turn a rude comment into a polite, friendly nudge. They might be distracting in questions, but are certainly helpful when interacting. Apr 20 '19 at 16:48
• I'm fine with them as long as they're not overused (´・ω・`) Apr 22 '19 at 2:30
• This is fine as long as you use a mac, on windows the emojis look either awful or like squares $\square$
– user486983
Apr 22 '19 at 17:16
• Yes, Bro, I'm with you!!! $$\ddot \smile$$
– user427802
Apr 23 '19 at 7:10
• I'd be cool with ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Apr 26 '19 at 6:13
• @rwbogl Smileys can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways - you may see a polite, friendly nudge, but someone else may see something negative. No-one should be depending on those to make up for rudeness. Rephrasing to get rid of the rudeness is always the better option. If you want to use a smiley in addition to rephrasing, go for it. Apr 26 '19 at 12:13
• @DavidRoberts Is your comment supposed to have a Japanese tsu (ツ) in the middle? Or is this an encoding issue? (In any case, I have no idea what that emoticon is supposed to mean.) Apr 26 '19 at 21:53
• @Kimball emojipedia.org/shrug sometimes in maths we just don't know (yet) Apr 26 '19 at 22:34
• The amount of negativity towards emotes/emojis expressed in the other replies makes me quite dissatisfied with the mathematical community here. Can't we just let people do whatever they want?? Apr 30 '19 at 23:41

Like it or not, the following are true:

1. we are not only rational, but also emotional human beings (not understanding this was the single biggest mistake of all European classical philosophy);

2. as such, we have a natural and healthy tendency to infuse all of our interactions with emotions (remember the 1997 BBC documentary about Wiles' proof of Fermat's conjecture, when Wiles begins to cry in front of the camera);

3. we spend more and more time communicating online, so it is natural for our natural need for emotions to invade the cold and impersonal environment of the online world;

4. since this is a natural, healthy manifestation of our psyche, we shouldn't fight it too much, but merely try to keep it under control and not let it explode.

I can't remember using emojis in the SE communities that I belong to; if I have, this must have been 1-2 times a year. This said, I do believe that using them is a matter of personal style that expresses one's personality: some of us are dryer, some more colourful, some quiet, some bubbling etc. I would discourage their use through my own behaviour, but never edit a post to eliminate them. If somebody edited my posts in order to remove them, I would intepret this as an aggression and definitely roll back (I have done this twice when a final "Thank you" was removed for being considered "noise").

Finally, the core issue: some people seem to believe that greeting, thanking and emojis are "noise"; this scares me. The internet is no longer some tool (like a refrigerator, for instance); no, it has become a huge part of our daily lives, and as such it will be more and more imprinted with all the characteristics of the human psyche. This is healthy, natural, and as such we shouldn't try to repress it.

(I find it funny how many in the developed countries try to be more and more "inclusive" (and "nice", as seems to be the latest fad on SE), but at the same time are looking for what to exclude next: now it seems that it's emojis' turn to be excluded from our inclusive world.)

• My understanding of the philosophy of SE (and MSE in particular) is that it is meant to build an encyclopedic repository of questions. It is meant to be a kind of "super FAQ" for the world. Questions and answers here are meant to be divorced from any particular person or voice (notice that almost anyone can edit almost anything). In this context, greetings and thank-yous are noise. While I would never edit a post simply to remove greetings or emojis, I will typically remove them as I am performing other edits.
– Xander Henderson Mod
Apr 20 '19 at 13:56
• @XanderHenderson: Maybe that was the dream about MSE at it creation time; the present-day reality, though, is wildly different. Apr 20 '19 at 13:58
• I really disagree with this answer. While it's an obvious truth that humans aren't purely rational beings, it's completely off topic. Yes humans have emotions, but we're also completely capable of engaging in various modes and styles of social interaction. These modes and styles are all particular to that individual, but vary in a variety of important characteristics, the key one here being formality. I think the general expectation is that questions and answers be written in a professional/academic voice to the extent that the author is capable of doing so. Emojis are thus inappropriate.
– jgon
Apr 20 '19 at 14:49
• I'd also like to address the idea that greeting, thanking and emojis are noise, and that that "scare"s you. The internet is of course not merely a tool, and I'm personally of the opinion that as a social space the internet is not really separate from "the real world". That said, I have no idea why the idea that these things are noise should scare you. Greeting, thanking, and emojis are not appropriate in many real world social contexts either.
– jgon
Apr 20 '19 at 14:56
• It's a bit of an exaggeration, since there's no direct real world analogue to MSE, but imagine a conference venue with many lectures going on in many different rooms, and every time someone walked in, everyone said "hello." This is obviously absurd, and while MSE is quite different in several ways, the point is that there are times when greetings are considered noise in the real world as well, so I'm not sure why the idea scares you.
– jgon
Apr 20 '19 at 14:57
• I'm personally not that opposed to thank yous, greetings or even emojis in questions, as long as the post is clearly segmented such that there is a main portion containing the question which is written in an appropriate voice. When the main question is written informally, it tends to have other severe issues, and tends to come off as disrespectful (at least imo). After all, I generally think it's disrespectful to talk to a random stranger on the street in the same voice you would use with your friends.
– jgon
Apr 20 '19 at 15:05
• Lastly, the ending parenthetical feels polluted with disingenuous political rhetoric. However you may personally feel about inclusivity is completely irrelevant here, even to your own post. Asking users to be polite and write in an appropriate voice doesn't exclude any person, and is just a normal part of participating in a community. The idea that a community having standards of discourse is exclusionary has some merit if there are issues with teaching people those standards (which there may be here, but that's off topic). However, that's not an argument for getting rid of standards.
– jgon
Apr 20 '19 at 15:15
• I agree with you. I have many friends who are uncomfortable using stack exchange because they worry about negative emotional reactions from people - a worry often based on negative interactions with a few sour apples. The way in which people present themselves here is hugely important for building a user base. I've had the luck to mostly interact with friendly, knowledgeable users, and that's a big part of why I continue to use this site. That friendliness is often expressed through emotional language, which can include smileys. Apr 20 '19 at 15:16
• Finally, there are many other ways to express things on MSE, including voting, accepting answers, and, if you'd like to write in a less formal voice, the comments. :)
– jgon
Apr 20 '19 at 15:16
• Whoops, I've got an addition. Most of what I've written above applies to questions more than it does answers. I will also admit that there are of course exceptions to every rule, and I tend to think that answers often require responding to questions in ways which can be less than pleasant to read if written in a dry academic voice, in which case a less formal response with emojis can be very helpful in maintaining a friendly atmosphere on the site. That said, I would express a preference for ascii emoji over the colorful icons, since ascii emojis don't have platform-dependent rendering issues.
– jgon
Apr 20 '19 at 15:22
• Expressing personality does not mean there shall be no rules. There are already rules and MSE users are required to follow them. I see no problem in having a rule against emojis - if the community ever deems such a rule useful. Apr 21 '19 at 6:21
• @Jean-ClaudeArbaut: And all I am saying is that rules must never go against the human nature, or else they will end up not being obeyed. We could impose that in the subway people should stand on a single leg. Or that people should be allowed to talk only for a single hour a day, because they produce "noise". We could try to impose these rules, but we would end up lynched by the masses pretty quickly. It is better when rules are natural. Also, "regulation" should not mean "repression", no matter in which name or for what ideal it is attempted. The accepted answer is a satisfying compromise. Apr 21 '19 at 6:28
• Emojis are hardly a part of "human nature". However there is already a rule that goes against many people's nature: english is not their mother tongue and asking/answering requires more efforts for them (that includes me). Yet we comply, and those who don't (though it's supposed to be accepted - and translated asap), are often downvoted. Emojis are only a recent invention any human being should be able to control. However, given the various opinions expressed here, I agree with this compromise. I'm not yet a dictator. Apr 21 '19 at 6:37
• One is also expected to somewhat control ones emotion and expression thereof in real-life, especially in a public and professional context. How much this is the case is context and culture dependent. Thus, I'd say we should basically adopt the same approach as in real-life. A smile, a joke, an expression of discomfort or annoyance here and there are alright. Bursting out in loud and prolonged laughter, shouting around, giving out high-fives and hugs left and right, etc not so much in a context that is about discussing math in a public/professional context.
– quid Mod
Apr 22 '19 at 14:05

While everyone is writing hate stuff against the Smileys, I'm here to defend and make my point!

1. Smileys are made to Enhance the Communication between the people over the internet ;) It makes even a rude comment, polite and promotes healthy communication between the community members.
2. It Dispromotes the weirdo feeling among people that mathematicians are dried/absent-minded/Introverts who are very serious and don't smile/grin or laugh. Yet, a small smile smiley destroyed that myth.
3. They make answers look good and explain better in an informal way to the newbies. You can't explain everything in direct mathematical and logical terms.
4. Removal of Smileys without permission of the writers is disrespectful towards original writings. 'Always' it should be mandatory to ask before removing smileys. Any changes in the content must be inquired before action.
5. Lastly, Smileys don't Violate the rules and aim of MSE until they are misused such as used in the title of questions!

$$\huge\ddot \smile$$

• +1 Well defended. Smileys, emoticons, emojis, whatever they are, are great. Written text on the internet tends to be terse; it's not like prose, where there is time and space to build up a sense of emotion. It's genuinely an improvement to communication to be able to display such emotions so quickly and in a way that transcends language barriers. Apr 24 '19 at 4:13
• That said, they are highly personal, and that may not be appropriate to the site. Are we here to help people, or to build a curated repository of knowledge in a Q&A format? Most of the time we can do both, but not always. Smileys help us do the former, but are just noise for the latter purpose. Apr 24 '19 at 4:15
• @TheoBendit Smileys are noise. True emotion lies in LaTeX. Apr 24 '19 at 11:16
• @Jean-ClaudeArbaut Okay, $$\huge \ddot \smile$$
– user427802
Apr 24 '19 at 14:08
• I can fully support points 4 and 5. However smileys are used quite differently by my Chinese friends and I frequently have to ask for clarification. I am happy to report that written humor is possible without smileys. It is absolutely vital that answer to elementary questions are written clearly using both strict mathemetical notation and long explanatory text. Apr 28 '19 at 17:54

Perhaps we should restrict ourselves to emojis supported by MathJax: $$\ddot{\smile}$$ and $$\ddot{\frown}$$.

• Definitely $\stackrel{\stackrel{\small\diagup\ \diagdown}{\bullet\ \bullet}}{\smile}$
– user486983
Apr 27 '19 at 2:03
• I hope that's a joke. Those are the worst. It's a misuse of MathJax.
– quid Mod
Apr 27 '19 at 22:21
• "Misuse of MathJax"? I have no idea what you mean. Please explain. (My comment was a joke to the extent that I don't actually have objections to any other kinds of smiley.) Apr 27 '19 at 22:38
• @quid at least i'm not going to see a nonsense square: 😜if I use Windows..
– user486983
Apr 29 '19 at 20:49
• MathJax is for typesetting formulas, not for anything else. One should also not use MathJax for formatting text etc. One issue is that it is not semantically correct. On the good side one can use Emojis in formulas. Like $5 \times 🍍 + 3 \times 🍒 = 12.5 \$ \$ // @Isa not sure what it has to do with Windows. I see it just fine on Windows.
– quid Mod
Apr 29 '19 at 22:55
• @Isa: You probably don't have the necessary fonts installed. I can't help you with it, though, because I myself do not know what font to use that covers all those characters and the various scripts used worldwide. Unicode was a nice dream, but as far as I know there is no complete Unicode font, i.e. one representing each Unicode code. May 1 '19 at 14:12
• @AlexM. oh I thought it was an irreversal problem. So could be fixed with certain installations, nice to know! :)
– user486983
May 1 '19 at 16:13

I wouldn't recommend deleting them all unconditionally.

I can see that an emoticon in some situations can be useful. It's a nice easy way for the writer to say that something mentioned in the previous sentence is a good thing or a bad thing. Who knows, perhaps an emoticon in a question will show that the OP is stuck because they felt the wrong way about something --- what they thought was wrong :( turns out after all to be the key to answering the question.

I don't think that emoticons are all that much of a problem, though I do find emojis to be slightly annoying. I would generally be in favor of editing out such symbols. Since your question doesn't really take a stand, allow me:

It is entirely reasonable to edit a post in order to remove emojis or emoticons.

As is the convention on meta, upvote this answer to agree and downvote to disagree.

• I haven't seen this happen enough to think it's a problem to address, so I'd like to propose a third option: 😐.
– user296602
Apr 19 '19 at 22:22
• @T.Bongers I actually inclined to agree that it isn't a big issue. I just posted an answer so that there was something to vote on. Someone has to take a stand, right? In any event, how about a compromise: delete emojis, but leave emoticons? :P
– Xander Henderson Mod
Apr 19 '19 at 22:58