When was the last time someone told you, that our generation is destroying the world, the language and everything in between? Okay, no one has ever said it so directly, at least not to me, but the idea has definitely been in the air. Today I’m going to focus on language, and how many people believe that we, the so called millennials, are getting lazy and destroying the english language with abbreviations and emojis. And just to clarify, the generation before us and before that one, are the main cause of the huge amounts of greenhouse gases floating around the air causing everything to heat up. So yeah, don’t accuse us of “destroying the world”. Enough of that, that is a whole nother topic. Moving on.
I want to specifically focus on emojis, because emojis are an art form, and I thought I was a frequent emoji user. That is, until I tried to find some texts where I use emojis, and I realised that I rarely use other emojis than the heart emoji and the danish flag emoji. Maybe it says a bit about me… Anyway, I have noticed how many people believe that the word ‘emoji’ comes from the word ‘emoticons’ that comes from ‘emotions’, however, emojis actually have a japanese origin. The word ‘emoji’ comes from ‘e’ meaning picture in japanese, and ‘moji’ meaning letter or character. It really isn’t a surprise that emojis originated from Japan, because their written language has always been visual with their symbols. In the 1990’s, a japanese phone company decided to include small pictographs in their keyboard as a way to market themselves better with the younger population, who were extremely into cartoons. That resulted in apple making a secret app in 2007 with these emojis in order to compete with japanese phone producers. It didn’t take long for the western population to find this app and fall in love with emojis.
Sounds extreme, but we apparently fell hard when we fell in love with emojis, because in 2015, 92% of the internet population used emojis, at an average of about 60 emojis per day. Does this make us dumber? Are we really destroying the language when we replace words with pictures? I think we are becoming more clear. We are clarifying our texts and the meaning behind it. But before we get into that, let me tell you something cool. According to John McWhorter, texting is not writing, it’s speaking. Sounds weird at first, but it is very true. We text like we speak. This leads people, especially the older generation, to believe that we are dumbing down, that we are becoming less academically capable. However texting, specifically emojis, have been described as perhaps the most significant advancement in human communication. It has gone as far as emojis replacing forms of advertising, as people are more likely to click on advertisements that they associate with emojis. This isn’t something we do consciously, but emojis have been linked to mood change, as we automatically mimic the emoji we see on the screen.
So, why do I say that emojis make us clear? I say that, because emojis is a visual representation of feelings. This makes it easier for the reader of the text to understand what is meant, because the emojis portrays the mood. It’s not easy to explain, but I’ll try to give you an example. The simple phrase “What’s up?” can be interpreted in different ways. Maybe you just want to know how everything’s going because you haven’t seen your friend in a few weeks, so add a smile. Maybe you are worried because your friend is sick, maybe someone did something stupid and you are wondering what is up with them, or maybe, you add a winky face so the person knows that you might be referring to something in particular, that is a little more phallic.
The moral here, is that emojis substitute the face to face contact we don’t have when we text. It almost creates a sort of body language because the emojis add emotions to the text message. They also ensure that less messages are misunderstood due to the use of sarcasm, that is easy to misunderstand over text. Emojis will probably never replace the written language we have completely, but it is a huge step in terms of humanising text messages. Texting is actually used more than phone calls in the population under the age of 50, just to end on a good statistic.