Emoji is defined as a visual representation of an emotion, object, or symbol. The term comes from a Japanese word meaning picture + character. You’ve all seen them. Smiling faces, frowning faces, faces with tears, half bodies representing various professions and sports, men with bunny ears partying, animals, vegetables, and on and on.
The social media landscape is littered with these little buggers. There are even organizations that put out approved lists. People like to place them in emails, texts, and who knows what else: tens of millions of insertions every day to add emotion or to take the place of real words. There are thousands of unique emojis out there infiltrating all of our communication systems.
So as the world and everything in it is becoming more complex and, therefore, requiring all of us to up our language game to articulate more precisely what’s going on around us, someone comes up with emojis. What is going on here? Do we really need people learning more language shortcuts? How in the world do people plan on discussing their innermost thoughts, for example, about friendship in the age of social media by way of a smiley face? Or attempt to comment on inequality of hiring practices in a certain business or industry with a frowning emoji?
According to Adam Sternbergh in the November 2014 New York Magazine, home to many cultural geniuses, “They [emojis] have proved to be well suited to the kind of emotional heavy lifting for which written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, especially when it’s relayed on tiny screens, tapped out in real time, using our thumbs.” If he’s right, here’s what we have to look forward to:
A wedding reception where the father of the bride toasts the group with an emoji-filled text to all the attendees standing around the bar. They, rather than applauding, text back their own emoji responses.
Next time you’re at a funeral, look for an electronic readerboard over the casket streaming the eulogy in emojis.
A PowerPoint presentation at a medical conference devoted to possible cancer cures with only emojis on the big screen.
And then …
The emoji edition of the Declaration of Independence.
Bookstores filled with emoji-only volumes.
Greeting cards loaded with emojis you can choose from to customize your thoughts.
A Microsoft Word emoji-dedicated edition.
TV shows and movies featuring emoji action figures and cartoon-like emoji dialogue.
K through 12 emoji-enabled textbooks.
Shirts and blouses with the most popular emoji’s on the front so the wearer can point to those that best express his or her feelings rather than utter a word.
Now that I think about it, who needs access to the 350,000 thousand English language words, phrases, and definitions in the Oxford American Dictionary to convey one’s thoughts when a screenful of emojis will do. Welcome to the revolution.