Asking millennials if they love texting and social media is like asking Kanye if he loves Kanye. [Enter Facepalm Emoji]. It’s little wonder why. Millennials have grown up in a digital world where online communication is instantaneous, easy and ubiquitous—and part of that appeal is the use of Emojis [Enter Happy Man Dancing Emoji].
But, are we relying too much on Emojis?
For those of you who live under a [Enter Emoji of a rock], Emojis are colorful symbols that illustrate or replace words and emotions. They indicate the difference between good vs. bad jokes, and sarcastic vs. serious comments. There are Emojis for when you’re feeling happy, sad or confused, and Emojis of symbols, food, letters and more. You name it and there is probably an Emoji for it [Enter Like-a-Boss Emoji]!
Their history traces back to Japanese innovator Shigetaka Kurita, who believed the most effective way to attract teenagers to his messaging service was by adding cartoon-ish pictures inspired by comics. Not surprisingly, tech-savvy Americans discovered the hidden Emoji keyboard by downloading a Japanese messaging app and the rest is history.
A Universal Trend
But enough about history [Enter Sick Emoji]. One of the greatest things about Emojis is their global appeal, which has led them to become a universal trend. Seemingly childish cartoons are symbols that can be intuitively understood, across continents and linguistic barriers.
A USA Today article claimed, “The sheer diversity of Emoji makes them a viable tool for crossing language and cultural barriers.” It went on to predict Emojis becoming “a pidgin language of their own.” Chances are, there is an Emoji for every word in a regular sentence. This gives way for the breaking of language barriers, since two people who speak completely different languages can easily communicate via Emojis. While languages are a matter of tongue, Emojis are a matter of depictions.
Emotional Transparency via Text
Not only are Emojis used and understood worldwide, they are also transparent because users reflect themselves in the different symbols they text or tweet. Emojis are able to lucidly express the human emotions that are sometimes not visible to the eye.
S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Lab at PennState University, says Emojis “play the role that nonverbal communication, like hand gestures, does in a conversation, but on a cellphone.” Emojis are considered transparent because they are able to reflect the mood, attitude and emotions of the person who texts [Enter Emoji of Girl Holding Cellphone]. They add to the virtual conversation because they are able to bring words to life and prevent misunderstandings.
Should We Be Worried?
Due to the benefits mentioned above, digital media users are heavily reliant on Emojis allowing text to make face-to-face interactions almost obsolete. Virtual communication trends are impossible to control once they reach users’ hands.
More than demolishing linguistic traditions, Emojis are stretching them. They are opening a door to a non-dialectic language that unlocks new opportunities for society and are constantly reminding us that writing has and always will have a visual component to it [Enter Camera Emoji].
The real concern with our Emoji addiction is the potential for physical conversations to dwindle—but changing human nature would take years if not decades to happen.