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Gen Z vs. Millennial – Who Will Win the Battle of the Internet?

does gen z use emojis

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Brianna Allison. Find her on Instagram at @ballison7. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at thezillennialzine@gmail.com.

First side parts became a Millennial thing, then skinny jeans were out of style and now there are certain emojis that are completely off-limits– unless you want to be considered cheugy. And even though Millennials might have been the ones at the forefront of the use of emojis and other internet trends, Gen Z has taken over. So how does Gen Z use emojis? What apps do they use the most? How can Millennials not look old? Let’s take a look at some of the Internet discrepancies between the Gen Zers and Millennials.

The Internet Discrepancies between the Generations

Although Millennials have been around since the rise of the Internet and the first iPhone, Gen Zers have basically grown up with smartphones in their hands. So things that Millennials thought were cool, such as Facebook and the Boomerang tool —- are “outdated.” However, 90 percent of Millennials have a Facebook page and use it regularly compared to 32 percent of Gen Zers. They’re more interested in using apps like TikTok and BeReal.

One app that both generations use is Instagram, with 90 percent of Gen Z being on the app while 71 percent of Millennials have accounts. They do have different uses for Instagram though. Millennials were around for the birth of Instagram when it started as casual. It then grew to be more posed and formal. Although, Gen Z wants to make Instagram casual again. They may post 10 random photos from the last month of their life. Instead of making it a photo diary, they want it to be snippets of their life. But there was a debate between the two generations about the Boomerang tool for Instagram stories. Millennials have been using the bouncy effect for years, but Gen Zers don’t seem to understand why.

More recently, Gen Z has pointed out that when Millennials video themselves they have a “Millennial Pause.” This term refers to the brief moment of silence at the beginning of their video where they make sure that the camera is recording before they start talking. Gen Z says that this is a dead giveaway to the generational difference between content creators. And essentially Millennials are realizing that they’re not the most technologically savvy generation anymore. And this is only the beginning of the generational differences between Gen Zers and Millennials when it comes to apps, content and internet trends.

Canceling the 👍🏼- Which Emojis are Cheugy?


Millennials and Gen Z have spoken and the thumbs up is OUT y’all. How do you feel about this? 👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽 #TheSocialCTV #debate #chat #emojis #genz #millennials #thumbsup #generation #hottake #hottopic

♬ original sound – The Social

The whole debate about emojis has been mentioned a lot recently after Gen Z announced that the thumbs-up emoji should no longer be used, especially in the workplace. They feel attacked and that it is passive-aggressive. The debate was sparked after a 24-year-old Reddit user asked if they were “not adult enough to be comfortable” with the use of the thumbs-up emoji.

They continued by explaining that it just seems rude for someone to send a thumbs up and it’s taken them a while to adapt to it being used throughout their work messages. They kept believing that their co-workers were mad at them before realizing that it was a generational communication difference. So the thumbs-up emoji is to Gen Z, as “K” is to Millennials. They both invoke the same feelings. 

Other emojis that were once cool, but are no longer are:

👍🏼- Thumbs Up

❤️- Red Heart

😂- Crying Laughing Face

👌🏼- Ok Sign

🙈- Money Covering Eyes

👏🏼- Clapping Hands

😬- Grimacing Face

💋- Lipstick Mark

✅- Green Check

💩- Poop

Now, why are all of these emojis no longer allowed to be used? Unfortunately, I don’t have a great answer for you besides the fact that Gen Z said so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Maybe I shouldn’t use that either; The Gen Zers are going to cancel me). Some people call these emojis bland or some just say they see older people in their life, such as their parents, grandparents or siblings, using these emojis so they just stopped.

Gen Z Redefines the “Cool” Emojis

Emojis have been around since 1997 when they originated on Japanese cell phones, but they didn’t begin to gain popularity until the 2010s. And now they’re a part of our everyday conversation, especially after most of our world went remote during the pandemic. The emojis are said to be designed by Shigetaka Kurita when he created the original 176 emojis. However, now they have evolved and our emoji collection has 3,363 symbols at our fingertips. They are the perfect way to express ourselves.

So, how does Gen Z use emojis? The answer is that they use them very creatively. Each emoji that they use has its own meaning behind it and they seem to like to use them a lot more sarcastically. While Millennials and other older generations tend to use emojis in a more literal sense. They take the emojis as they are and that’s it. 

Gen Z has redefined the use of various emojis including:

🤠- Cowboy: happy on the outside but dying on the inside 

🤡- Clown: you or someone has done/said something foolish

💀- Skull: something so funny that they died from laughter

⏳- Hourglass: someone has a good body or is attractive

😅- Smiling with Sweat: I’m stressed, but I’m fine

🔥- Fire: lit, stylish or sexy

👀- Eyes: tell me more or I’m listening

🤰- Pregnant Woman: someone is very attractive 

👁️👄👁️- Eye and Lip Combo: something is so shocking or embarrassing

🙂- Slight Smile: fake smile like in awkward situations or feeling uncomfortable

😗- Kissing Face: sounds good to me!

Although both generations use emojis a lot in their emails and messages, there seems to be some confusion behind the meaning of some of them. While using emojis think before you send. Who are you sending the emoji to? Will they interpret it the same way you do? When you get a message with an emoji. Who sent it to you? Do you think about this emoji the same way? 

I know it seems like a lot but sometimes an emoji can give someone the wrong message so it’s important to recognize these factors. And if you’re not sure, always go to TikTok or the Internet. They’ll be sure to tell you what’s cool to use, which ones are meant to use and which ones are just plain cheugy. So good luck and happy emoji-ing!

Let us know in the comments below if you still use these emojis or if you’ve cancelled them a long time ago! How does Gen Z use emojis? Are there any other emojis that you think should be included on this list?

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