Rising Popularity Of Emojis: Fatal For Written Language?

By Victor Kiprop on December 24 2019 in Society

Over 1,800 emojis are in use today.

Emoji, a Japanese translation of “picture and character,” was first used in 1998, but smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Apple popularized them in the mid-2000s. Two decades later, emojis have become an integral part of our communication. Initially, 176 emojis were developed for Japanese mobile phones, but over 1,800 are in use today. About 90% of smartphone users cumulatively use emojis six billion times every day. It is the fastest-growing “language” in history and is evolving faster than ancient hieroglyphics. Over one-third of people on the internet use emojis at least once a day, and their popularity has spelled doom for netspeak language such as “OMG and LOL.” Social media has played a role in the development and use of emojis. About half the posts on Instagram contain emoji, while Facebook and Twitter report higher figures. Emojis became popular since mobile phone users sought to pass more details on short messages. The unending appetite for this informal language has resulted in the development of new mobile apps that provide users with thousands to choose from. Millennials across the world have replaced words with symbols to convey messages. Still, some professionals and linguists argue that this should ring alarm bells, not because it is wrong to use icons in a conversation, but due to their reliance. The use of these icons may lead to miscommunication, as they may be interpreted differently. For example, the two folded hands symbol was initially developed in Japan to represent gratitude and salutation; others understand it as a symbol of prayer, while millennials use it to describe a high five. 

A Detriment To Language

A research in 2018 showed that over a third of adults in the United Kingdom blame the deteriorating English on the growth and popularity of emojis. About 90% of adults between 16 and 65 years believe that youngsters are no longer capable of using the correct form of English. Half of the adults in the UK are not confident with their grammar and spelling due to over-reliance on emoji, predictive text, and spell checks. Digital communication is part of the modern world, and just like everything else, it undergoes progressive evolution. Communication technology has made it easy to pass messages without necessarily having to adhere to the basics of language. Most millennials are not bothered by spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Professionals argue that emoji should not be used in official communication or at work since it decreases the perception of competence. Recipients may not always grasp the intended full meaning of the communication since emojis don’t relay tone.Additionally, a person may not understand or misinterpret an icon. Language and communication are part of the school curriculum to teach students how to communicate effectively. Most students pass these lessons in class but fail to implement the same during informal communication. If symbols are incorporated into language, then it is not progressive but a regression back to hieroglyphs.  

No, Emoji is Not Ruining Language 

The recent rise in the use of emojis has led to the concern that it could lead to the deterioration or even death of written language, but some experts argue that the symbols enhance rather than replace words. They are a visual representation of emotions, status, and ideas, and can only be used instead of or alongside words. Some even call them modern hieroglyphics. To determine whether emoji is ruining language, we first have to decide whether or not it qualifies as a language. 

Is Emoji A Language?

Language requires expressions such as words that are pronounced or signed and represented in the form of writing. There are over a million fish words, and a native English speaker occasionally uses about 60,000. Even with the more than 1,000 emojis in use today, they do not meet the vocabulary requirements to be recognized as a language. Secondly, language should possess systematic grammar and punctuation. One should be able to combine expressions and words to pass a message that is decodable by the recipient. Sure, sequential emojis can be used to communicate short messages, but when more than three emojis are used sequentially, the message becomes impoverished and may be challenging to decode. In digital communication, emojis are used to enhance and support the context in a similar manner; gestures and intonation enhance spoken language.  

The End Game for Language?

Emoji is not a language and will never completely replace text. Mass adoption and uptake is also not a consequence of laziness. If intonation and gestures are withdrawn from verbal communication, then the speaker becomes less effective and fluent. Emojis act as digital gestures and tone to enhance communication between users. The use of these icons is set to rise in the future and may find their way into workplaces as they become more informal. Most people are capable of typing an entire text without emojis and still manage to relay the same meaning. Emojis provide an easier way to do so. 

Emojis In The Workplace

Emojis were introduced to the workplace around at the beginning of the decade. While they were considered unprofessional initially, that perception has changed with nearly all employees from interns to CEOs using them. This not only presents an opportunity to emphasize communication but also speaks more about the emotional intelligence of employees. Emojis may look unprofessional at the workplace. Still, when we consider the deeper meaning of what we are communicating, then we can understand the impacts of the high five or winking face to the recipient. An email with clapping hands or thumbs-up emoji shows genuine positivity and excitement. Aside from official communications, employees engaged in informal conversations are more interactive and relate better than those who stick by the book. By conveying emojis instead of words, employees can multitask and engage several recipients without losing context. 

Mind your Emojis!

Even with the importance of emojis, employees should not solely rely on digital communication. It is essential to develop a personal connection through verbal and visual communication. It is vital to be sensitive to different audiences and cultures when using emoji to avoid conflict. Whether you are an intern or a seasoned executive, it is essential to be mindful of your audience. Experts advise not to use emojis when addressing a formal audience, and just like verbal communication, avoid being overly assertive. Proper grammar and sentence structure should accompany emojis in official communication. 

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