The Global Language of the Emoji
There is certainly a case for emojis to be claimed as a global language, as its popularity and usage continues to surge with generation Z, Millennials and above. The concept behind ‘emojis’ has been around for centuries, perhaps less commonly known as iconography, which is defined as ‘pictorial material relating to or illustrating a subject’. So do not be fooled into thinking this method of visual communication is a 21st century idea invented and used only by the ‘youth’!
Recently, I received a text message where a friend was ranting about some first world problems, to which I could’ve easily ignored, but I wanted to show a certain level of interest. As busy day-to-day life started to take over I just didn’t have time to construct a perfectly written, sympathetic reply. It seemed easier to simply send an emoji of the facial expression associated with the issue [Grinning face with smiling eyes]. This acknowledged the message and without typing a single word, I had shown some form of sympathy. The emoji also works so well along side text due to the difficulty of tone. For instance, sarcasm, which is near impossible to show through a text, is now easily understood with the simple addition of iconography.
Some critics are claiming that emojis are creating an ‘illiterate generation’ as words are being replaced by images for simple communication purposes. I find this hyperbolic. By using emojis, you must have an understanding of the words and meaning associated to them, which by no means will make people illiterate.
As I have been reading around the subject, I stumbled upon an interested website, emojitracker.com. The website shows ‘real time emoji use on twitter’ which gives you a live reel of how frequently (rapidly) these symbols are being used in peoples tweets. The site has masses of data around the usage; how one could interpret and benefit from this is another matter.
McDonalds have taken advantage of emojis popularity in a recent advertising campaign using a series of images to tell a story. The billboards displayed across the UK used different emojis to tell the tale of how McDonalds makes people happy; or so they claim too. Whether or not you believe the advert, it certainly has a simple and effective message. More importantly, everyone understands what it is saying to them. It does the job and you can’t dispute that.
Clearly, emojis are not just used on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and such by generation Z. They are used across many formats, by individuals (of all ages) and now by corporations for communicative purposes in advertising/marketing. Evidently this is not just a phase nor will iconography ever replace good old fashion words, but they are certainly providing a more dynamic addition for the masses.