An examination of emoji usage in news teasers on Facebook

Primary Author: Rebecca Donaway

Faculty Sponsor: Jessica Willoughby


Primary College/Unit: Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

Category: Business, Communication, and Politial Sciences

Campus: Pullman




Online news use is growing at a rapid rate. This study is particularly interested in news exposure on social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook. The physical layout of news on social media is such that the teaser (status message) allows news organizations to add additional text to shared news posts. In some cases, the language used in the news teaser is subjective, more emotional, and less formal that traditional news norms would suggest. Political communication research has not thoroughly explored the teaser space or how this relaxed formality affects user engagement with the news online (likes, comments, shares). The goals of this mixed methods study are two-fold. First, using focus group data from young adults, the research explores user impressions of various features of the news teaser that communicate emotion, namely exaggerated punctuation, uppercase text, and the use of emojis. The results for emojis in news teasers were the most complex. While users recognize that emojis are less formal, they are interested in their use, especially the descriptive emojis.  To further study this, an experiment will be conducted to test the effect of four different emoji conditions: no emoji, descriptive emoji, positive emoji, and negative emoji. The research posits the role of anger and enthusiasm will mediate message exposure and engagement outcomes. Thus, this second study will contribute to our collective understanding of the antecedents of emotional reactions within the Affective Intelligence Theory, as well as informs news and content creators alike on the effects of the teaser space.