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 moreShow 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.
Emojis are used differently by different cultural populations, despite these groups having access to the same limited number of emojis. This indicates that the way emojis are used - and therefore any influence they have - is dependent on existing bonds and forms of communication.
In 2016, researchers at the universities of Michigan and Peking ran a study into the use of emojis in different parts of the world. Contrary to expectations, their findings revealed that different types of societies use emojis differently. Specifically, the way they are used reflects cultural and attitudinal distinctions between different population types.
For example, societies with high levels of individualism are more likely to use emojis that reflect 'happiness'. Conversely, societies that have much closer social bonds use emojis with negative connotations more frequently.
The same patterns emerge in studies of language, and how phrases and 'positive' or 'negative' words are used by different populations. Emojis are indicative of user identities, the same way that any type of communication is.
[P1] Different populations have unique ways of communicating with each other
[P2] Different populations have distinctive patterns of emoji use
[P3] Emojis are defined by their users and contexts
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P3] Different patterns of emoji use does not necessitate that emojis are defined by the identities of their users.