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Have emojis changed the world? Show more Show less

In just two decades, emoji has become ‘the fastest growing language in history’. But are there more complex implications to their popularity? With more than 92% of internet users now using emojis, and billions used every day, do the simple digital pictograms have wider implications for society, relationships and even the way we're hardwired?

No, the impact of emojis is exaggerated. Show more Show less

The growth in emoji use is part of the much more transformative digital revolution. Emojis are impactful insofar as they enhance (or diminish) existing forms of communication. However, they have no revolutionary impact in and of themselves.
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Emojis are a byproduct of the Digital Revolution's efficiency

In this day and age, efficiency is seemingly valued above all else. The emoji came about as a quick means to expressing oneself emotionally through text messaging. It enhances digital conversation, but is only a byproduct of rapidly-evolving communication technology.
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communication digital revolution emojis revolution social media

Context

The emoji was created as a conduit for more efficient digital communication. As they have become more widespread, their purpose has not. Focusing on the emoji as a force for change is misleading, because it detracts from much more significant changes taking place in society linked to the 'digital revolution'.

The Argument

One of the cornerstones of the Digital Revolution is efficiency, specifically efficient sharing of information. Starting with the Internet and watching the burst of artistic and intelligent video games, smartphones, and even the process of constructing self-driving cars, Nature’s Richard Hodson points out that people were and still are concerned about Artificial Intelligence weeding out important positions of work. However, it seems clear that AI, having been built to assist in our productivity, is only bolstering everyday life. There was initial concern about the effects of smartphones, and while tech companies are addressing these concerns in their new work, there has not been substantial evidence to suggest that smartphones damage mental health in the ways we feared. Emoji, also known as emoticons, fit perfectly under the umbrella of the information boom: they allow for easier and more direct textual communication and they are not based in any particular dialect. Emojis are the perfect tool for global connection. Like other technologies, there has been concern that their influence would interrupt our society, but emojis have only allowed us to dive deeper and quicker into our lives.[1] According to experimental psychologist Dr. Monica Riordan, emoji feed our need to build strong relationships; she explains that one character can represent an entire story between friends, and loved ones have the opportunity to build a mutual language that only they can understand, no matter how far apart geographically.[2] The Unicode Consortium, led by Google software developer Mark Davis, is in charge of approving new emoji. However, it is not solely focused on these new characters. Their priority, explains Davis, is to ensure that people can text in their preferred language and their device will recognize their language’s characters. It is only fitting that the consortium is in charge of this new addition to our global communication, but it only supplements the drive for connection that we already have.[3]

Counter arguments

Emoji, as trivial as they may seem, are quite relevant in our daily lives and have revealed spaces that we humans seek to fill. New Republic released an article featuring linguist Ben Zimmer explaining that the emoji phenomenon is something of an “enrichment” to our language, something we’ve been seeking. Humans pay close attention to tone and body language and texts can only give us very little social information with an exclamation point here and a daunting question mark there, Zimmer explains. It seems that tech companies have found a way to allow the humanity of communication to break through to our largely efficiency-based information-obsessed world.[4] Psychology Today explains that humans primarily use emoji to bolster the words they have used that are just not enough, the way a hug would normally fill in. They use them to “soften a blow,” and find a way to remind the recipient of such text that a human is behind the computer. They also use them to add their own personality, another hint reminding the recipient of just whom exactly is on the other side of this message.[5] Emoji are absolutely harbingers of clarity and that’s why companies love them and use them in their own advertising, but at the core of it all, emoji might bring us back to something deeper and far more human: Emphatic and complex connections.

Framing

Premises

Rejecting the premises

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07500-z
  2. https://www.vogue.com/article/emoji-etiquette-text-message-study-findings
  3. https://time.com/4244795/emoji-consortium-mark-davis/
  4. https://newrepublic.com/article/118562/emoticons-effect-way-we-communicate-linguists-study-effects
  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201605/why-do-we-use-emojis

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 25 Jun 2020 at 20:29 UTC