They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, which is maybe the reason why people feel so strongly about the way in which emojis represent modern society.
What Guardian journalist Alex Clark described as the first ‘truly global language’, the emoji has become ingrained into the way in which we communicate via social media – in many ways replacing text-talk as the way to simplify and hasten digital interactions. As a report by Adweek demonstrated, 92% of the current online population use emojis – with 30.4% using them several times a day, and 33.5% using them several times a week. Yet since tech brands truly ignited the usage of emojis (making them a prominent part of mobile and social media usage), there has been much noise surrounding the extent in which the emoji keyboard reflects individuals outside the ‘white male’ demographic.
Unicode (a consortium of members from several companies including Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft, who design the universal keyboard of emojis) have in the past introduced new emojis after mass criticism – introducing a range of skin tones for each emoji due to a lack of ethnic diversity, and professional/progressive female characters after a campaign by Always highlighted underlying sexism in the previous range of emojis, which could be seen as being harmful to young girls. Even after making these changes, Unicode still find themselves again under criticism due to not better representing individuals who wear hijabs and and headscarfs – causing one 15-year-old girl to attempt to get some made by a third-party company.
But do more representative emojis actually enhance how we interact online, or are these in fact inconsequential changes that have little-to-no impact on digital conversations?
“They’re almost like a 2.0 version of the Egypt pictograms – when hieroglyphics were used as a way of clearly expressing concepts, emotions, stories and ideas”
I’m not personally a massive fan of them and normally stick to using the same three or four faces – although this is probably because I’m too lazy to find new ones.
However, I do think that in many ways, and for many people, emojis are a universal way to communicate between each other, regardless of having a different backgrounds or coming from a different country.
They’re almost like a 2.0 version of the Egypt pictograms – when hieroglyphics were used as a way of clearly expressing concepts, emotions, stories and ideas. Hieroglyphics were more than just symbols, they were truly spiritual, and a universal way of expressing the rich culture of beliefs of the Ancient Egyptian society.
What this tells me is, just because it’s visual doesn’t mean that it’s less important than words. For everything you say there is now an emoji. While this can be restrictive if you have to choose from a very limited emoji bank, we are now relatively free to choose between different skin colours, genders and religions . While there may be a constant struggle to find the perfect emjoi to best represent our own image, most people still use the yellow (most neutral) classic emoji the most.
I hope one day someone is gonna find an easy way to find the perfect emoji instead of spending hours before to decide which one to use.
“When it comes to diversity I think emojis are a way to approach cultural issues in a more open and relaxed way. I’m also a strong believer that emojis – although simplistic – are a great representation of our society”
No surprise, I’m personally a big emoji lover. I’m the typical person spending ten minutes looking for the Panda emoji to write to my best friend who I gave the Panda surname to ten years ago. As simple as that. And I don’t just see them as a ‘fleeting’ trend – I can still remember the emojis I was using on MSN chat.
My first, and somewhat naive, opinion when thinking about emojis is that it’s cute. My instant reaction to an emoji is to smile. What’s wrong with that?
Most evidently emojis are illustrative, thus a universal alphabet that facilitates the expression of a meaning, an emotion or a moment. Yet given their subjectivity and their emotional appeal I also see them as an indirect code of persuasion when stating a judgement or asking something to someone. As an account manager, I am frequently chasing my colleagues, clients, even my bosses by email or chat. I’m pretty sure that a little smiley with a client (or a rainbow unicorn with Marco 😉 ) in my requests reduces the sense of constraint and possible misunderstandings.
When it comes to diversity I think emojis are a way to approach cultural issues in a more open and relaxed way. I’m also a strong believer that emojis – although simplistic – are a great representation of our society. And as many cultural identities there are in the world, I don’t see any problem in having an emoji specifically created for that. The more, the merrier! Also, if someone requests to have an emoji that relates to him or her, I see this as a need, and I don’t see any harm in satisfying it. Creating as many emojis as expressly needed shows that everyone has a place and a word to say in our society. Twitter creating specific flags hashtags to promote nations, or Google’s gender equality emojis are just a few examples in the ocean. I just think diversifying emojis and spreading them on social media is a great way to promote diversity.
So there you have it folks. Although Marco isn’t a keen user and Lucile’s a massive enthusiast, they both feel that everyone has the right to be represented in emoji form. Marco seeing them as almost a modern hieroglyphic, which will no doubt be around for as long as the internet exists. Lucile believing that, in the culturally diverse society we now live in, that everyone has the right to express themselves.
- In an extimate world of communication, emojis add a layer of expression that was before difficult to display online. They show implicit meanings and add creative sparks to the diverse ways in which one can express their opinion.
- In a modern society where pop culture rules and convenience is king, these modern little pictographs give people an easy way to express their emotions without writing a small novel via text, or email, or any other form of 21st century communication.
- For brands, this new language reinforces the needs to have strong synapses with the way that the human brain connects with other human brains without the need for words or explanation.