Emojis – a critical view of the little yellow fellas!


We have recently been having discussions on language and reading. One thing in particular that came up was the case of Emojis.

This article from Donna is very engaging, [1] and really me contemplate the idea of emojis being more than superfluous additions to texting.

The issue seems to divide people and debates can get heated when on the subject.

Are they the decline of the language? The visual representation of a society too lazy now for the chore of typing out words perhaps? I’ll admit that while being partial to the odd emoji now and then, it was more of an ironic usage a lot of the time. Let me illustrate:

‘Are you around campus now? Let’s get food!’……

That’s a bit stiff, I’ll think before sending it…

I’ll add Sir WinkFace and a burger and throw in a baby chick…. And I knew I was doing it just for the sake of it of course, they were just something to fill up the screen really!

After ‘researching’ the topic, and finding out more about the cause and effect of emojis my eyes have been opened to the necessity for them in this digitally dominated world.

They are of course made for conveying emotion that is lost without personal interaction. Misunderstandings can happen when the tone of a message does not translate from sender to receiver. The subtle nuances of conversation are often lost over text since human beings rely hugely on visual information and cues to talk to each other.

In a world more interconnected than ever, it is might be often that we find ourselves communicating with people from all around the world. Thinking about what we might do if confronted with someone who we could not talk to it’s safe to assume that hand signals would be a lot of peoples go to method (assuming there is no Google Translate available of course). Emojis find themselves conveying information in a similar method. Basic messages (and very complicated ones) are able to be translated in Emoji!


Emoji can be seen as a natural progression of the language, an adaptation to technology today. Emoji being cited as the fastest growing language today only adds to the conviction that it’s here to stay.

Even so there are plenty of people who would say Shakespeare is rolling in his grave. Self declared ‘crusty old conservative who questions progress’ [2] would say as such. That article would be right in saying this is quite simply a step back for language, and that to compare it to Hieroglyphics is not praise because it is a devolution of language, if it wasn’t for the fact that emojis are simply an accessory to our language. They enhance modern conversation and I don’t think it’s quite true to say they will completely replace words typed.

To say that Shakespearean is the ‘correct way’ to communicate is ludicrous. We can’t all speak in iambic pentameter all the time can we? Linguists at the time of the first era of compression of the English language were outraged that it would be so decimated. Language is fluid and how we interact with it is constantly evolving. I think it’s interesting to note the fact that people are not, as detractors would shout, less literate now. They are certainly consuming more information and we are what could be called ’emoji literate’.

Visual aids like stickers and gifs all really add to the experience as much as emojis. Like them or not, they’re here for the long haul. There isn’t any let up in our technology obsession, and as such they’re simply necessary.


[2] http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/may/27/emoji-language-dragging-us-back-to-the-dark-ages-yellow-smiley-face


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