Emojis; Is Language Evolving or Going Backwards?

Following our discussion in class about emojis and how they are becoming evermore present in our daily lives, I have been pondering the subject for the last week or so.

While I am an avid user of emojis while in contact with friends through text, Twitter and Facebook Messenger, they very rarely stem out into my everyday life. It’s rare that you’d hear someone say ”sadface emoji” in relation to something bad or upsetting happening (you do find the odd case) so therefore, I found it odd that some people would refer to it as a language. Sure, send ’em, tweet ’em, even put ’em on your clothes (Amazon, 2015) if it makes you happy. Whatever. But I wouldn’t have gone as far as calling it a language in it’s own right.

That was until I did a quick Google search on the definition of language and was met with this; ”the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.”. After reading this, I started to think about the ways in which emojis are used and soon realised that it in fact could be a language. Granted, not a spoken one but a written type. The ”method of human communication” portion of the definition shows that emojis can in fact be called a language of sorts as they help people communicate with each other in a way that sometimes they cannot get across by just using conventional language. While the definition says ”words”, I feel this should be altered to include ”symbols” as well. The communication power of emojis can be seen in the likes of emoji poetry and emoji stories (such as guy chasing balloon (mySanAntonio.com, 2015)) which convey different things through the use of these symbols. Why should Hieroglyphs be considered a language if emojis are not? Are we not doing the same thing as our ancestors just on a digital format?

However, if you pose these questions you are also left with the alternative view; questioning whether the use of emojis is throwing us back into the past. Shouldn’t we be moving forward not backwards? Kyle Smith from the New York Post seems to think so with his article (Smith, 2015) entitled ”Emojis are ruining civilization” in which he states ”Dumb used to be an accident. Now it’s a goal. No matter how complicated something might be, someone is reducing it to a tiny cartoon.”. While I agree with him that complicated issues should not be tried to be explained in a little icon, I feel that he is taking the whole phenomenon a bit too seriously. In reality, no one takes these small cartoons to mean anything much. They’re all just a bit of fun and if it helps get your point or emotions across in a way that you cannot verbalise, then why should it not be referred to as a language. After all, it is a medium of communication isn’t it?

In my opinion, I feel that the communication power of emojis is immeasurable and while it is not a language in the typical sense of the word it has definitely made a huge impact on our society and the way we live.

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3 thoughts on “Emojis; Is Language Evolving or Going Backwards?

  1. While I agree with you on the point of “If Hieroglyphics are a language, why aren’t emojis” I must respectfully disagree where you say “In reality, no one takes these small cartoons to mean anything much” due to Emoji Poetry itself. Poetry, by definition is “literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm”. And while Emoji Poetry lacks rhythm, it can definitely bring style and expression of feelings (possibly more than real poetry – as a “picture speaks a thousand words”) to the table. If we did not take this at least a little seriously then emojis would instill no emotion in us, and what would be the point of emotionless emojis? I will concede that they do little to help with complicated issues but I think they should be treated with a little more respect.

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    1. That’s a fair point, but in my opinion, I don’t feel people read emoji poetry to instill emotion in themselves but really as more of a mental exercise to see if they can decipher the stream of icons. I like your views though. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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