Listen guys, I think I’m ready to make a confession. I love emoji and use them habitually. There, I said it! I know what you’re thinking, “Roman, stop being childish. Emoji are silly.” Well, I just can’t help myself. 🤷♂️ How am I supposed to NOT use them when they’re so great at enhancing online communication by adding an extra layer of meaning? As expected, this sentiment isn’t universally shared. Let’s see what both sides of the argument have say then.
I’ve already made my stance on emoji clear. I’ll go as far as saying that I sometimes even adjust my phrasing or choice of words to accommodate the use of certain emoji.
The little pictograms play a number of roles, some of which I touch upon further down the post, and require somewhat of a linguistic proficiency if they’re to be used properly.
Stop it, emoji aren’t all that!
Obviously, not everyone shares the same enthusiastic approach to emoji as I do.
There have been voices online calling them cultural regression, an idea probably stemming from an assumption that they’re a less capable system, but this is comparing 🍎 and 🍊 they’re simply different.
As far as emoji-related issues go, there have been reports of lawsuits pertaining to their use. This begs a question like is sending a gun emoji equivalent to a death threat?
Adding new emoji is also problematic. As you may or may not know, there’s an organization called the Unicode Consortium responsible for the matter.
Interestingly, several third parties including Netflix, Facebook, Google, Huawei, Apple, Microsoft, as well as the Sultanate of Oman and the government of Bangladesh have the right to vote on what new emoji will be added. There are also “associate members” like Twitter, Tinder and Amazon.
This is shadier than you thought, huh? 🤔
But emoji can’t be that bad, right?
What online communication is often missing are the in-person tonal clues. On the face of it, emoji are cartoonish and thus childish, but don’t let that fool you. The way they’re used and how sophisticated the meaning behind them can be is far more complicated.
Historically, there have been attempts, way before the digital realm emerged, to introduce non-alphabet characters and symbolic representations for complex ideas such as irony or snigger.
Written language, however advanced it may be, isn’t a perfect system. It order to fully convey the richness of human communication, it requires symbolic augmentation.
This is where emoji come in.
The little pictograms add an extra dimension, a layer of communication creating a richer experience and allowing you to express yourself in new ways. A single tap of the screen can help you drive your point home or purposefully create ambiguity.
And speaking of which, I’ve recently found myself using the modern rendering of the classic shruggie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 🤷🏻♂️ increasingly often.
But what does it mean, really?
What the hapless chap may be trying to say is:
- I don’t know
- I’ve given up
- I’m flawless
- What the heck?
- Like, duh!?
- What do I know
- What am I supposed to do?
- Here’s an opinion, but who am I to say? What do I know?
This emoji is a mood, a stance, a satirical comment, all packed into a single symbol. Doesn’t this awe you in the slightest?
Where do we go from here?
Emoji have taken a deep root in our culture. They’re present in our daily text exchanges, on clothing items, there are emoji-shaped foods, movies made about them, and books written on the topic.
How well will they stand the test of time, though? Can we expect them to never go away?
Evolution is the most likely scenario and it’s already under way. Kaomoji were the originals, we now have bitmoji and memoji, so what’s next?
Expressive individuals like Emoji Influencer are creating modern art pieces involving the symbols. Others, like Mia Cinelli are experimenting with new characters designed to enhance traditional alphabets with modes for expressing emotions.
Emoji have encroached upon natural languages and not everyone is happy about it. Some people see them as a dilution of our ever-compressing online communication leading to dumbing down of the message.
This MAY be true in some cases but emoji are what you make of them.
They’re undoubtedly an interesting phenomenon and can be very useful for adding more layers of meaning to what you’re saying.
In no way there are a threat to any of the natural languages. They’re a cool augmentation which can influence certain modes of communication but you can’t write songs or entire literary masterpieces in them (and yes, I know Moby Dick has been translated to emoji).
There’s a time and place for emoji. They don’t take anything away, but rather add to how we interact online and allow you to do more with less. 💯