World Emoji Day is upon us, Wednesday 17 July, and it is estimated that 5 billion emojis are sent daily on Facebook Messenger by the 4 billion internet users online. Added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, the word emoji literally means “picture” (e) + “character” (moji) in Japanese, and has become the universal language of short messaging. In fact, “Emoji is now the fastest growing language in the UK and evolving faster than ancient forms of communication, such as hieroglyphics,” claimed Professor Vyv Evans of Bangor University who studied the emoji’s “speed of evolution.”
According to Emojipedia, in total there are 3,019 emojis in the Unicode Standard as of March 2019, and these clever illustrations and icons have even had their own (critically shamed) 2017 Hollywood movie – drawing further attention and popularity from grandparents to tweenagers, to express emotion, validate a sentence, or shorten a sentence in short messaging. In many cases, it replace words completely. But the emoji has not infiltrated our lives without debate: Are they helpful or ridiculously inane?
DJ Koh, head of Samsung’s IT & Mobile Communications Divisions, on the eve of last year’s Mobile World Congress, said the phones are recognition that communication has gone well beyond voice. “Nothing is more important than how emojis are replacing words,” he said. “Images are becoming the new mode of expression. Clearly, the social media generation has revolutionised the way people communicate.”
Dean McCoubrey, Founder of MySociaLife, South Africa’s Premier 10-module Digital Life Skills Program in Schools, says “Emojis are one area in which the generational gap around technology has been bridged. It’s simple enough for grandparents, parents, tweens, teens and younger to use, and no one feels alienated. But there are still pros and cons to consider. In our training of students, teachers and parents, we see how they have become helpful and supportive ways to express where we are in our feelings, and support the limitations of words by adding an emotion to them. However, sometimes their universal presence means the recepient could miss signals from the other person. We have become more de-sensitised to calls for help in an increasingly online world. Smart device communication has taken over most of our lives, but sometimes human contact is imperative. We see this in schools – especially around bullying, flaming, trolling and shaming. An emoji isn’t going to do the job.”
5 Tips: MySociaLife’s Emoji Parent Kit:
- On the plus side, emojis are a great toolkit for teens and tweens to use in communicating their emotions (to a certain degree) – particularly if they’re a little stuck for words.
- But, importantly, we still need to recognise calls for help. Short messaging and social media is a great place certainly allow us to present our story to people, but maybe not with all the truth and reality of how we feel. And for kids, they need that support to process where they are at the time
- MySociaLife (https://www.mysocialife.com/) recommends parents to check-in to see what teens and tweens are chatting about in their digital conversations, both as a way of identifying and addressing cyberbullying , but also as a window into what’s going on their worlds – for their protection. Communication and access is key for parents, but it has to be set up correctly through a social media and smartphone agreement at the right age.
- For parents, it’s worth knowing there’s a sub language to emojis too – an eggplant emoji doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is a fan of aubergines, or that a palm tree emoji means that they’re looking forward to their beach holiday – check here if you need the translation ️(https://m.parent24.com/Family/Parenting/say-what-emojis-and-txt-talk-decoded-for-parents-20190131)
- A Digital Life Skills Program is an essential component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Schools need to consider unpacking the topics of reputation, digital footprint, security, empathy, balance, every single term as technology evolves so graduates are equipped for a hi-tech workplace.
What does the future hold?
“Emojis are a bit of fun. We can debate them as much as we like but they’re comfortable to many. With Samsung’s new AR Emoji and Apple’s Animoji, and a new generation of headsets and VR glasses set to explode over the next 12 months, I suspect that we will soon be using AR emojis next, and way more than we currently think. After all, we didn’t think the world would change as quick as it has. We teach kids this simple foundation: With technology we need to get safe and smart first before we explore and excel.”
Which emoji are you today?