Warning: This post is more of a rant, so you may ignore this
When we’re children, one of the first things we’re taught are the basic emotions. Happy, Sad, Angry, Scared, etc. Usually, there’s a guide, like happy = “smiling face”, sad=”frowning face with a single tear”, angry=”frowning face with downward pointing eyebrows”. Basic, unambiguous guides to emotion. However, there is a reason why we come up with so many different words for seemingly the “same” meaning. There are subtle nuances to an emotion that often require a specific word. Angry is not exactly the same as frustrated. Happy does not necessarily convey euphoric. And with that increase in descriptive words, there are increases in subtle ways emotions can be expressed in body language.
The reason I’m writing this, is because of some observations about interpreting emotions. There is this tendency to stick to childish interpretations in order to study a person’s emotions. For example, why are we so intent on equating happiness with “smiling”? Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves depending on the emotions they feel. Sometimes being happy means you’re content and relaxed rather than exuberant and ecstatic. Anger may mean raising your voice, or throwing things.
Obviously, this adherence to the “smiling=happy” idea is most prevalent in photos. I am capable of “smiling”; that is, turning the corners of my mouth upward in a presumably positive manner while displaying teeth. However, it usually requires me to laugh or find something amusing.
But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s manipulative. People can’t just adhere to a strict guide of conveying emotions. I know people who aren’t really great at smiling, but they’re still decent people. They express happiness, anger, and sadness in different ways. Don’t we all? If people “smile”, that’s great. But are you seriously going to hound them because they express their emotions in a different manner?