TOKYO, Nov 21 — On social networks, in our emails… emojis are used everywhere. And their rates of use are increasing: on Discord more than 7,600 emojis are used every second. More than 436 billion emojis have been posted on the messaging service since its launch in 2015.
To better understand internet users’ passion for these pictograms, Discord surveyed 16,000 people over the age of 16. More than 70 per cent of them said that emojis help build connections among people. And this is the case whether they are friends, family members, classmates or even colleagues.
Younger generations are particularly fond of these small symbols representing facial expressions, activities, objects, animals and foods. They believe they help them be more honest and expressive in their digital exchanges. For example, 69 per cent of millennials say they communicate their emotions more easily with emojis than with words, as well as 65 per cent of Gen Z respondents.
And this was exactly the goal that Shigetaka Kurita had in mind when he invented them in the late 1990s. At the time, texts were limited to 250 characters on early messaging services, and it was difficult to convey emotions and their nuances, as the Japanese interface designer explained in the documentary series “Emoji-Nation.”
Since then, emojis have become an essential component in our digital exchanges, in some cases even taking over from written language. In 2015, the Oxford Dictionary decided to choose , the face with tears of joy, as its word of the year. A decision that may have surprised traditionalists, but that attests to how the way we interact and communicate continues to evolve. “Texting can feel impersonal, but emojis let you put some of yourself into the conversation,” says Connor Blakley, founder and CEO of YouthLogic, in the Discord report.
Symbol that express more than they appear to
Although they’re everywhere on the web, in forums, messenger apps and more, emojis are constantly being reinterpreted. Nearly eight in 10 respondents say their meaning varies depending on who they send them to. Foodies may use the carrot emoji to refer to the orange root vegetable loved by rabbits love, while anti-vaxxers use it to talk about the Covid-19 vaccination, in order to avoid social network moderation policies.
Everyone can interpret and use emojis slightly differently. The phenomenon is such that 44 per cent of the web users surveyed by Discord say they have a go-to set that they rely on. But these personal preferences don’t stop them from appreciating the thousands of other little graphic icons that exist. In fact, emojis even have a positive effect on the emotional state of the person who receives them: 72 per cent of respondents agree that receiving emojis makes them smile when they feel sad.
A finding that comes as no surprise to Neil Cohn, a cognitive scientist and expert on visual communication and language. “Despite being graphics, we often perceive emojis like faces. And the sight of another’s smiling face is often enough to make us do the same,” he said in the Discord report.
Emojis are thus a form of language in their own right, as they allow us to express ourselves through images that represent aspects of our everyday reality, not unlike hieroglyphics thousands of years ago. Like their Egyptian ancestors, emojis contribute to the organisation of our social interactions. Indeed 43 per cent of respondents said that they provide more validation than a text or verbal statement. — ETX Studio