The nuances of Gen Z texting conventions, explained xd

October 13, 2020 — by Amanda Zhu

No fear, I’m here to explain the three tenets of texting lol

For us Gen Z-ers, texting is an integral part of life. We use it all the time — for school, for family, for friends. With my 6 years of experience, I’ve noticed some texting trends that can be categorized into three main categories: texting style, emojis and ghosting. 


Texting Style

Generally speaking, there are two types of texters: those who type in all lowercase and those who don’t.

Typing in all lowercase means disregarding everything you’ve learned in English classes — proper nouns and first words in sentences are all lowercase — for the aesthetic. For whatever reason, lowercase letters are more aesthetically pleasing than capitalized letters.

If you text with proper capitalization, I understand and respect your decision to adhere to the conventional use of the English language. It’s the normal way of typing, and the way that the whole world typed up until about five years ago when half of Gen Z decided that lowercase was better. 

Now, if you text with proper punctuation, however, you are clearly a psychopath, and if you ever need to reach me online, I’d prefer it if you could just give me a call instead.



Emojis are a staple of texting. They’re used to convey emotion (albeit sarcastically sometimes), lighten the mood and can even change the tone of a conversation. 

We all know and love the staple smiley face, “:)”, but in recent years, an evolved smiley face has emerged: “:))”. To be completely honest, I’m not sure what the difference is. I use the two interchangeably, only switching them up to add some spice to my texts. Think about it: if you send a text with two sentences and end one with “:),” it would be silly to end the second sentence with the same emoji. But if you end the second sentence with “:)),” no one’s gonna complain. 

There are those who avoid using emojis altogether. And while I could understand that in the past, the use of emojis has recently upgraded. They’re now used to convey emotions that may not be directly implicated by or related to the emoji. For example, there was a surge of the use of the fairy emoji this past year, as well as the glitter emoji, to convey sarcasm. Some emojis now convey the opposite emotion that they depict: the crying emoji is now used as a reaction to something funny and the grinning emoji is used when someone is definitely NOT grinning. 

Emojis are even being sent together to form mass emojis. The two eyes with a mouth in the middle, an incredibly versatile emoji combination that can be used in a variety of situations, gives users the ability to mix and match: add some raindrops next to the eyes, and now you have a crying face. And the index finger pointing in opposite directions, when used together, conveys shyness. 

What about the emoji that we all knew and loved in middle school? The laughing crying emoji. I’ll be the first to admit that sixth grade me used the emoji an embarrassing number of times. But if you are STILL using this emoji unironically today, I don’t trust you. Every time you feel the urge, replace it with a “lol” or a “haha.” Trust me.


Ghosting (unread vs read)

I applaud those of you who instantly respond to texts. It’s incredibly admirable and is what I have been, and will continue to be, striving for. 

Various applications like Messenger, iMessage and Discord allow you to react to messages with a variety of emojis such as a question mark, a heart, thumbs-up and thumbs-down, etc. There’s nothing wrong with constantly leaving people on read, per se, but if you’re not going to respond, the least you could do is react to their message. It’s a way to respond without actually responding — your friends can’t accuse you of ignoring them because technically, you responded with a reaction. 

Ghosting is a term used to describe someone completely cutting off communication with someone else with no explanation.

Sadly, I have a terrible habit of ghosting people, but I promise it’s not what it seems like. Ghosting people because you think you need to wait a certain amount of time before responding following their text is foolish and isn’t the reason for my ghosting. 

I have notifications off for most of my apps to conserve battery power and will often forget to check for messages. Another reason is that I may have an important upcoming test that I need to study for or a big project to finish, so I ignore all messages. Finally, if it is a text that requires me to send a long response back and I’m not at home, I’ll wait for once I get home to respond. But then a week goes by and I forget to respond, and the next thing I know, it’s been three months.

And this leads us to the great debate: Should you leave someone on unread or read? For me, the obvious choice is unread. If someone leaves you on unread for a year, you can at least pretend that it wasn’t intentional. Maybe they just missed your message. Maybe they broke their phone and haven’t managed to find a new one. Maybe their account got hacked, and every single time it shows that they’re active, it’s just the hacker on their account. 

But that little icon that shows that they opened your message with response is an icon sent from Satan himself. It destroys all optimistic thoughts and snuffs out the tiny sliver of hope that they had. If you’re not going to respond to someone immediately, why would you put them through that pain? You might as well have them think that your phone was eaten by a bear.

haha but don’t worry there’s no need to stress out about all these rules 🙂 texting really isn’t that deep lol :)) 

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