Since Apple first introduced the Emoji keyboard in 2011, Emojis have become so mainstream that you’ll struggle to go a day without seeing one, and you will be expected to embrace them further this year with the release of The Emoji movie.
Love or loathe them, Emojis are taking over. They represent a new era of language, endorsed by millennials, hipsters and uncool parents.
A History of Language
Like a lot of things in life, trends come and go, but they always re-surface somewhere down the line – just look at vinyls! The same can be said for language and communication.
As humans, we are programmed to seek out examples of non-verbal communication. We are forever assessing facial expressions and body language to help determine whether a person is hostile or friendly, for example. As humanity has evolved this trait has played a huge role in social environments and behaviours. Nowadays, we are combining both iconography and emotions, (creating emoticons), as a way of communicating what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling but through a digital medium.
One of the first forms of communication were markings on a cave wall. Emojis are the modern day reincarnation of those cave wall drawings. Language and how we communicate seems to have gone full circle.
The early homosapiens had to communicate somehow and, in a time before written language, they had to utilise iconography through the drawing of symbols. They used images to tell stories and to pass on information, much like a modern day text message does today.
You could argue that the resurgence of desire to use images to communicate comes as a result of laziness, but after all, people absorb information much quicker from images than text, especially as tone can sometimes be difficult to detect in written language.
Written language has evolved too. It began in a simplistic, symbolic form and then developed to more complex levels as the need to express, describe, inform and educate people through language became more important.
The ability to create documents or materials, that could be passed on, containing crucial messages became priceless. Furthermore, forms of printing, and the eventual introduction of the printing press, meant that language could travel far and wide like never before. Again, having a similar impact to the how digital communication has revolutionised the way we communicate. And, much like Shakespeare did, the digital generation are growing our language by inventing new words all of the time.
Technology has forced unprecedented changes to the way we now communicate. Those who lived in the pre-90s era could never have anticipated such change.
Introducing the mobile phone and SMS. The first text was sent in December of 1992 and from that moment on, written language was never the same again.
Also, there was still an urge to create imagery using punctuation as a subtle way of expressing emotions in a text message
As soon as people realised that texts cost by the letter, there was a need for words to be decapitated. Slang (short language) became more prominent than ever. Shortened words saved time and money. Acronyms, abbreviations and deletion all of a sudden became our natural way of communicating. Early examples such as brb, lol, omg and idk all spawned as a result of the digital era and have not only become staple in ‘text speak’ but have also become a solid part of the modern English language as we know it.
As we’ve discovered, we’ve always had ways of communicating. Be it verbally or non-verbally, the demand for newer, smarter and easier forms of communication has always been apparent.
Social media platforms have opened up the entire world to be able to communicate on a level like never before. Some argue that this has been detrimental to the English language because these words are now used verbally and being introduced the the Oxford English Dictionary at an alarming rate, making the older generations roll their eyes. Yet others deem it to be the natural evolvement of language and something we should embrace. Either way, our new digital language has earned its place.
Using emojis in a sentence is now considered to be quirky and can give an ordinary passage of text a splash of coloured liveliness, therefore make it more enticing to read. However, do they make it easier to read or detect emotion?
The nature of an Emoji is not definite. Each expression or example could be interpreted in a number of different ways, leaving a recipient confused or offended. This is where you must take care when using Emojis. Plus, due to the varying mobile devices and operating systems, some emojis display differently, causing even more dilemma.
Emojis of the Future
Will Emojis continue to evolve into VR animations with sound effects, or will they fade away and be replaced by something new?
It’ll certainly be interesting to see where language goes next, and what the post-Emoji era will look like.
For now, emojis are a staple part of our daily absorption. And, if you’re using them for business purposes, be careful not to cause yourself a headache by using conflicting Emojis which carry alternate interpretations.
If you need any help tidying up your social media account or developing a tone of voice for your content, get in touch