17 July - World Emoji Day

by Tauri Kerr

Emojis – a blessing or a curse?

Welcome to the year of 2020; where sending the wrong emoji could end a relationship or receiving a certain emoji could leave you stressing for hours.

Most people have become dependent on the use of emojis to convey their feelings in areas of their messages where grammar or vocabulary have failed them. However, this is not true for all, which leads to the misinterpretation of messages and/or emojis.

The first emoji was created in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita, who was an engineer working as a Japanese mobile operator. Emojis were only released on the mobile operating system in 2010 – it’s crazy to think how important they have become to us over the last decade.

17 July was chosen as World Emoji Day because it is the date that is circled on the calendar in the most recent set of emojis available on a smartphone.

As wonderful as emojis can be, they can often be ‘misused’. Although this is subjective, it can lead to misunderstanding and unnecessary angst when trying to communicate with someone.

For example, if you send the eggplant emoji to your grandmother, it is likely that she will think you are simply sending her your weekly grocery list. If you send that same emoji to your fellow classmate, your message might have an entirely different interpretation.

The same goes for sending a message with no emoji at all. If I sent a message simply saying ‘ok’ to a friend, it could be misunderstood that I am unhappy with them but, by adding a happy emoji, it can change the entire tone of the message.

The burning question is why do we allow emojis to have such an affect on our lives?

Living in the 21st Century is living in a technologically dependent society. People have lost their ability to communicate face-to-face and therefore rely heavily on digital communication. Emojis were the gift to the digital world that we never thought we needed… or so we thought.

In my opinion, emojis have only contributed to the anxiety of communicating via social media.

Whilst doing some reading, I came across the term ‘Facebook depression’. This occurs when teens and preteens spend a long period of time on social media and they proceed to show the typical symptoms of depression.

Facebook depression is a product of extended time on social media which leads to feelings of inadequacy and self-objection. Studies show that there is a correlation between the time spent on social media and one’s self-image.

Image from Shutterstock

This is simply my understanding, but it would only make sense that the use of emojis, or lack thereof, contributes towards Facebook depression. Have you ever waited (not so patiently) for a message from a specific person? When they do respond, it is not entirely how you had hoped for them to reply; the tone is all wrong, they’re coming across as disinterested and they used an emoji that you know is bad news!

It is normal to feel despondent after receiving a seemingly discouraging text message. The problem is that the message could have been completely misconstrued. The sender of the message could interpret that emoji in an entirely different light, and think that everything is fine between the two of you.

The debate over what different emojis mean and their significance has been ongoing since 2010, when they were made available to smartphones. Emojis have evolved so much, too. Now there are emoji faces for different races, cultures, professions and even fantastical creatures.

It is safe to say that emojis have become inclusive whilst providing a broad range of ideograms. There are so many of them that there is a dictionary for emojis. If you’re ever stuck wondering what an emoji means – Emojipedia is your saviour! I wouldn’t say that you should depend too heavily on this source though, everyone interprets emojis differently and this is part of the problem.

On 17 July we celebrate these small images that are used to convey emotions when a face-to-face conversation is not possible. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words – and an emoji is no exception.

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