Linda Kaye, who has a short blond bob and brown eyes, smiles at the camera.
Cyberpsychologist Linda Kaye explores how an emoji could help encourage people to wear face masks during the Covid-19 recovery phase.

To mark World Emoji Day an Edge Hill University expert looks at how the face mask emoji could be an important way to encourage behaviour change around wearing face masks as part of the Covid-19 recovery phase.

Ahead of this annual day of recognition on Friday 17 July, Dr Linda Kaye, Cyberpsychologist, documented how symbols often play a huge role in social and political movements and can help towards the promotion of social change.

At the start of the global pandemic, experts saw an increase in the use of health-related emojis when talking about Covid-19.

Recent analysis has shown that the use of the face mask and microbe emojis, were most commonly used to describe it. This analysis was undertaken by Emojipedia.

Dr Kaye, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said: “The analysis, which took place in March 2020, was based on a sample of 49,621 tweets.

“Despite the face mask and microbe emojis being used commonly to describe Covid-19, this still didn’t reach the same level of popularity as the ‘crying with laughter’ emoji, which was used nearly three times more than the face mask emoji in this time period.

“This is not to say that people were making light of the seriousness of this pandemic, rather that people were most likely continuing to engage with others in usual ways and in some cases may have been sharing ‘happy’ or ‘funny’ content as a way of maintaining high spirits during a difficult time.”

She continued: “The face mask emoji is an interesting case. I recently speculated about the role the face mask emoji may have in encouraging face mask use in the general population.

“The role of emoji in social discourse and in fostering social change is not a new phenomenon and it would be interesting to see whether this face mask emoji plays a role in social recovery from Covid-19.”

Dr Kaye specialises in the research area of cyberpsychology; she is specifically interested in exploring how online settings can promote social inclusion and wellbeing.

Areas of her research include: social identity and stereotypes in digital gaming; online behaviours and how this relates to perceptions and processing; and gender issues in stigmatised settings.

If you are interested in hearing more about Dr Kaye’s take on the use of emojis you can watch her TEDx Talk ‘What Your Emoji Says About You’ here.

She is also due to take part in a panel discussion at an online conference ‘Covid-19 and the media’, hosted by the British Psychology Society, running from 30 June to 1 July 2020.

If you are interested in studying Psychology at Edge Hill, the University offers a variety of courses including BSc (Hons) Psychology, BSc (Hons) Educational Psychology and BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology.