Should we actively incorporate emojis into everyday use, supplementing the written word?

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Emojis have been a new addition to everyday communication that seems to fit in naturally. Emoji’s are, essentially, little pictographs and as the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” An emoji can communicate emotion, symbols, and direct meaning in one shot. This isn’t something that needs to be taught, it’s just something that people seem to get. It’s different from the word, which means it can’t do everything words can do, but it also can convey meaning where words fail. I don’t think this is fad for children, we should see this as an opportunity to improve upon what we have and make something better. Let’s actively incorporate emojis in everyday use to supplement the written word.

The first response to emojis from many people has been to relate these pictograms to the hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt. Egyptian hieroglyphics are proof that a language without characters representative of sounds is possible. Imagine each word is comprise of letters that represent the order in which you make a certain sound with you mouth. A picture however, conveys an entire idea all at once. I think the Egyptians would have benefited from a written language to add details, that are clear and hardly subjective. The Egyptian language has been decoded, but I’m sure there are subtleties that will never be known, just like there are subtleties within each emoji that people just understand as a given.

The Ancient Greeks were another culture that knew the power of communication and interestingly developed visual communication to improve their oral communication. Many ideas came relating to rhetoric came out of Ancient Greece-even the term rhetoric. In public speeches the Ancient Greeks used a mnemonic device we refer to as a memory palace. This was technique of translating speeches into visual cues and placing these visual cues inside a ‘palace’ or place they could mentally explore-the same way you can probably mentally explore each room in your house from memory. The reason this technique works is because visual information can be translated faster and stays in the mind for longer.

If visual memory is such an efficient and memorable way to communicate information we should seriously think about taking the written language to the next level. It’s happening relatively unconsciously, so if consciously approached this opportunity can be properly exploited. The intertwining of nonverbal and verbal can better represent a face to face interaction. In person the face and body language communicate as much, if not more, as the spoken word. Then, tonality and many other factors come into play when communicating meaning on multiple fronts. Notice how much faster you can consume the same information from a movie than from a book. A movie conveys so much information at once that it you couldn’t possibly commit everything to word. In a book there are lines committed to describing body language and scenery-things that are just expressed simultaneously in a movie. To just give an idea of the possible, a system of emojis can be used to express the visual information that takes forever to express verbally.

Some of the fun is the lack of rules. It allows for an ever changing way to express oneself. Like figurative language, there is no one way to imply an idea to someone. A person may vary in degrees of directness to avoid or show disregard for being rude. The lack of direct structure is part of the fun, allowing for a wide range of ideas to be communicated. However there is structure, we know of literary devices like repetition, sarcasm, and metaphor. We study these these ideas and even though there is an unbelievable amount of room for variation, there is still structure. Let’s study communication through emojis and learn to see where they shine, what there uses are, and how we can effectively use them in a more formal sense.

Pictograms, like emojis are an interesting path for human communication that is developing right now in our life times. We should recognize this and take on the responsibility of developing this form of communication in a way that will best serve our needs in a practical and spiritual sense. This is a concept that has been applied in successful societies before us, and it seems to just be falling into our culture somewhat unconsciously. It will be interesting to see how this develops whether it remains a organic or guided.

1 Comment “Should we actively incorporate emojis into everyday use, supplementing the written word?

  1. Hansol

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Evan! I like your observation and argument about the need to actively incorporate emojis in written communication (though they are still discounted as less serious means) – and find it interesting that you lay out your ideas without using a single emoji or image! As you point out in your writing, your argument could have come through more strongly if you could complement your points with visual examples 🙂
    In today’s screen-saturated culture, I think we’re getting more and more visual-oriented and it’s dramatically reshaping the way we process information – think about Instagram and YouTube, and Google Image Search and the increased use of infographics, for instance. I’m also curious where this takes us to and how the relationship between text and visuals/emojis willl shift too!

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