Monday, August 10, 2015
by Denfield

When there are no words – the rise of the emoji

As a writer, words are very important to me. I’m much better at articulating myself when I’m given the opportunity to write my thoughts down than I am when I’m put on the spot. Writing allows me time to think and express myself properly. But in a day and age where words are constantly being limited to 140 characters and thirty-second slots, are we being forced to become more succinct and visual in how we communicate with each other, or are we being encouraged to express ourselves in lazy ways?

Now, I know I’ve just said I love words, but there’s something else I love too… I bloody love an emoji (the smiley poo is my personal favourite). Emoji – translated as ‘picture letter’ in Japanese – help express emotions without the need for words. Andy Murray gave us a great example when he recently took to Twitter and used only emojis to sum up his wedding day from start to finish.

The sentiment behind the tweet seems oddly more sincere expressed in this way than it might have done through words – and besides, what words can successfully sum up ‘the happiest day of your life’ anyway?

So, why have emojis proved so popular, not just with ‘the youth’ as might be expected, but with people of all ages, backgrounds and social standings? It’s pretty simple – emojis have enhanced our ability to convey emotions through our digital communications – something that has in the past been impossible. Digital technologically lacks the function to allow us to punctuate and accentuate our speech patterns with iteration, tone and gestures. How many times have we each found ourselves in needless text disagreements because there was no way of interpreting tone, and therefore meaning? What is meant as a joke can seem like an insult, or what was intended to offend can be taken as an attempt to comfort! By using emojis in our communications, we are able go some way to convey how we are intending what we say to mean. The use of a smiley face after the question;

‘How are you doing today?’

....most certainly means something different to when a sad face is used to accompany it;

‘How are you doing today?’

These visual ‘picture letters’ enable us to better convey and interpret the intended sentiment of a message. Therefore, it could be argued that emojis are in fact enhancing our understanding of language, rather than harming it, as many academic naysayers have suggested.

Emojis also act as a very useful shortcut! What is the alternative? To speak in the third person, perhaps, like you’re living in a novel:

‘How are you feeling today?’ I tentatively ask my friend, not really knowing if it’s the right thing to do, placing my hand gently on a shoulder, ‘Are you feeling any more positive after your break up last week?’

Erm, the men in white coats are on their way!

Perhaps that’s why you’ll find Tom aged 6, Phil aged 25, Mary aged 51 and Jennifer aged 78; from Sheffield to Hawaii #lovingemojis.

They’re not quite a universal language yet, but means the same thing in every tongue, and with emojis soon to be a fixture on all keyboards, it won’t be long until they’re being used in the boardroom as well as the living room. That’s why I say long live emojis!

Until next time, folks – have fun!