Emojis: Evolution of a wordless language

There is no question that communication means have evolved and innovated over the years. The form of expression taking center stage today the world over is the use of emojis.
Communicating while using emoji or emoticon is trendy on social media. (Doreen Umutesi)
Communicating while using emoji or emoticon is trendy on social media. (Doreen Umutesi)

There is no question that communication means have evolved and innovated over the years. The form of expression taking center stage today the world over is the use of emojis. 

These emoticons and emojis are an evolution of communication into a wordless language that people from all walks of life are encompassing into their electronic conversations. The emoji influence has grown to a point where even marketing firms are taking note and incorporating them into their campaigns.

An emoticon or emoji is a pictorial representation of a facial expression using punctuation marks, numbers and letters usually written to express a person’s feelings or mood. Originating from Japanese mobile phones in the late 1990s, emojis have since then increasingly gained popularity worldwide fueled by the growth and influence of social media.

Apple’s iPhone was the first to include emoji ideograms and smileys for electronic messages followed by Android and other mobile operating systems. As social media has grown and character counts shrunk, these pictorial representations of feelings are playing a significant role in communication. Emojis exist in various genres, most popular of which are facial expressions.

Emoticons and emojis are an evolution of communication into a wordless language.

The increasingly abundant use of emojis across cultures and age groups suggests we’re entering an era of communication where we treat pictures like a language.

Like any other invention, popular innovation or popular trend, the growing use of emojis has sparked controversy. Some linguists are expressing concern that the growing use of emoji puts a harsh limit on what you can say with words. They argue that the written word is infinitely more adaptable and meaningful.

As tends to happen in an age where technology is transforming culture, it’s inevitable that some people embrace change with either apparent joy or bland irony. Studies however reveal that the use of emojis is more likely to grow as demand for them increases. Phones and social media platforms are finding more creative emoji expression to introduce to enhance electronic communication.

Are they necessary? 

Ritah Gatsinzi, a university student, told Sunday Times she ‘speaks’ emoji.

“I use emojis in most of my online communications simply because they say exactly or more of what I intend to say. They are amazing at expressing my intention, my meaning and feelings. I don’t have to break a sweat trying to explain to people, an emoji does all the talking,” she explains.

“I also find that emojis save a lot of my time. Sometimes I am too busy to type a paragraph but emojis ease communication in a sense that a couple of faces will tell someone exactly how you feel and they can reply in kind,” Gatsinzi adds.

Joshua Mitali disagrees saying that people abuse emojis as a form of communication and may end up offending their colleagues or acquaintances.

“It is frustrating to communicate with someone who texts using only emojis. For communication to be meaningful, two parties need to ‘talk’ back and forth and exchange views. Some people simply take everything to the extremes and tend to express their feelings with little faces. Words are really powerful in their authenticity and people should remember to keep that facet in their communications,” he argues.

Some emoticon users say emojis bring an element of fun and funk into any conversation. They insist emojis have a positive effect on enjoyment, enhance interaction and may enrich a conversation as people perceive the reaction of others by the help of the sort of emoji the other person sends.

Fabiola Umwali, who is ardent user of emojis, concurs explaining that emojis are the perfect invention to bring spark and fun into any conversation on social media and other communication platforms.

“Whether something is shocking, interesting, disgusting or impressive, there is an emoji for it. I like emojis because they help me react in a snap. I don’t labor to find the right words to say because an emoji is a thousand words in one single expression,” she says.

Most people think that the use of emojis in the business or work spheres is inappropriate and unprofessional.

However, as their popularity grows, there is a visible growth of their inclusion in online marketing campaigns and other business platforms. The strategies used to market using emojis are usually based on the available product and type of audience.

Joel Mutijima, an entrepreneur believes that emojis can be used in a business setting as long as it does not go to extremes.

“I run a small business and it’s my desire that my employees feel as comfortable and motivated as possible. I use an emoji to soften the blow of a critique so that they understand that their work needs to stay top notch but I appreciate their effort. Surprisingly, it works every time,” Mutijima says.

“I am aware that it is definitely unconventional, unprofessional or silly to incorporate an emoji into a work email but in my opinion it is a great way to freshen an otherwise bland copy or text. Let me stress the fact that you have to consider your audience and the matter at hand. Never overdo anything.”

As emojimania grows, it is perfectly sensible to establish an etiquette of when and where not to use an emoji.

There are a lot of great, sensible and fun uses for emojis, however there are also moments where an emoji in a text is downright inappropriate.

Do use an emoji to add spunk, fun and charisma to a text. Don’t completely forget the use of words, some people would love to know what you actually have to say without being sentenced to emoji facial analysis.

Do understand that there are situations and issues in which an emoji is the worst form of communication.  Don’t ever express your grief or condolences for someone’s loss by texting them an emoji of your understanding. The fact that is even a subject of caution is enough pain in itself. People need human warmth and consideration not emoji representation of your absence.

Do access the appropriateness of an emoji by weighing the seriousness of the issue at hand. Don’t be insensitive enough to respond to any sort of heavy news with an emoji. There have been rather strange reports of people who break up with their significant other by texting them emojis of what they presume is effective communication. Don’t, just don’t use emojis recklessly, they are meant to co-exist with words.

Clearly the dot.com era is slowly paving way for the emoji era where words are supplemented with another more exciting silent language to further upgrade electronic communication. As emojis and emoticons are becoming an integral part of our digital life, it’s worth the effort to enjoy what they offer responsibly.



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