With the advent of the Internet, people received an opportunity to communicate faster. However, social relations required more than merely exchanging messages. Users wanted to share not only news but also their emotions, which was not easy to do with plain text only. Hence, emoticons, text-based smileys, were introduced, on the basis of which emojis, small graphic smileys, and ideograms were developed. With the help of emojis, people became able to describe their feelings in a quick and funny manner. Gradually, emojis have entered all spheres of life and communication, and it is impossible to imagine the world without them.
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The Importance of Emojis
The History of Emojis
It is impossible to imagine present-day digital communication without emojis. These digital pictograms can be found on social websites, in emails, messages, and other means of transferring information between users. Although emojis are treated as light-hearted and “almost comedic” communication means, their history is quite complex, it preceding a variety of mobile devices on which emojis are used (Stark and Crawford). Emojis were created in the second half of the 20th century when the iconic “smiley” face was introduced. Emojis appeared out of copyright claims, technical standards arguments, and typographic habits (Stark and Crawford).
As a popular indigenous form of communication, emojis have come to perform the function of smoothing out “the rough edges of digital life” (Stark and Crawford). Throughout the history of their existence, emojis’ role in digital communication has increased substantially. Not only do these pictograms bring personality and intensity to networked texts, but they also can serve as an “emotional coping strategy” (Stark and Crawford). Hence, the emergence of emojis and their development are justified by their applicability and the ability to enhance digital interaction.
Emojis as a Means of Conveying One’s Feelings
Particular attention of scholars is given to the analysis of emojis’ potential to represent cultural and social aspects of communication. As Hu et al. remark, emotional expression helps individuals to interact effectively. It is comparatively easy to convey such states verbally, with the help of facial expressions, tone of voice, and non-verbal body signs. However, it is rather complicated to express one’s feelings when writing a message. Thus, emojis are used to simplify the process of explaining one’s emotions via digital information exchange. Emojis are believed to bring “unprecedented richness and diversity” to communication (Hu et al.).
Scholars have found that on platforms like Twitter and Weibo (Chinese analog of Twitter), people tend to use negative emotions more frequently than positive ones (Hu et al.). Meanwhile, in personal communication, users of such social platforms as Facebook and Twitter exploit emojis to add a positive image to their posts or photo captions (Yau and Reich 202). Scholars also note that the frequency of applying emojis depends on users’ age. However, despite some differences in the characteristics of employing emojis, these options are helpful in conveying one’s feelings.
Persuasive Attempts of Emoji
An interesting aspect of emoji use is related to the rhetoric of convincing. As Ge and Gretzel remark, emojis are “quintessential elements” of social media interaction (1272). Thus, scholars explain the persuasive attempts employed by social media users. It is noted that persuasive strategies used by social platforms differ from those employed by marketing approaches. Ge and Gretzel argue that the use of emojis allows impacting individuals and performs numerous communicative and convincing goals (1273).
With the help of new language modes, including emojis, the rhetoric of social websites is capable of transforming the sphere of marketing strategies. Such a process is possible due to the growing interconnection between emojis and consumer online communication approaches. Companies selling products and services employ emojis in their slogans and advertisements to attract more clients and persuade them to become regular customers. Since emojis are universal and can be perceived by all users irrespective of their age or geographical location, organizations can exploit them to attract new clients and retain the existing ones. Hence, the use of symbols as visual text representation improves the persuasive possibilities of companies.
The Place of Emoji Within the Legal System
While emojis are becoming an increasingly significant element of people’s communication, it is necessary to keep in mind the legal dimension of their use. Goldman notes that the application of emojis can cause misunderstandings with “significant legal stakes,” including sexual harassment liability and contract obligations (1227). The legal system, despite its readiness to make sense of new forms of content, is not ready to handle emojis due to some interpretative challenges (Goldman 1227). One of the major difficulties in this respect is the fact that different platforms depict emojis not in the same way.
There are two major groups of legal issues associated with the use of emojis. The first one covers the problem of misunderstanding these digital pictograms, which may lead to judicial involvement. The second aspect consists of the scope of emojis’ protection under the laws of intellectual property (Goldman 1230). One of the core dilemmas in exploiting emojis is that the sender and the receiver do not always see the same image due to the peculiarities of their devices. Whether or not users are aware of the legal aspects of emoji use and misuse, the scholarly discussion of this issue signifies the level of significance that emojis have gained in the modern world.
Emojis’ Way into Science
The importance of emojis and their role in people’s interaction may also be demonstrated through their presence not only in social communication but also in scientific discourse. A systematic review of the literature performed by Troiano and Nante allowed identifying several directions of scholarly research incorporating the analysis of emojis. Particularly, the authors note that scholars associate emojis with concrete feelings (Troiano and Nante 528).
Huesch et al. performed an analysis of emojis as a means of sharing experiences of breast cancer screening (e201). Skiba expresses interest in studying emojis in the dimension of health care (56). The scholar suggests developing a set of emojis for doctors who could use these images when taking care of their patients and managing their conditions. All of these data sets indicate the growing interest in emojis in the scientific sphere.
Currently, there is not much research focused on emojis in scholarly circles. However, as Troiano and Nante note, the emotional and psychological effects of emoji application are “fascinating” (528). Hence, it would be interesting and valuable to apply emojis in the public health sphere with the aim of enhancing interaction between doctors and patients. These are only initial steps made by scholars in the direction of analyzing emojis. However, the growing concern signifies fresh perspectives of developing this topic in science.
Examples of Emojis’ Effect on Society
The increased effect of emojis on people’s lives is demonstrated through their willingness to receive signs for their specific interests and characteristics. Every year, new emojis are created to represent more and more spheres of life (“Emoji Version 12.0”). Still, many users are dissatisfied with some features being underrepresented. As a result, new projects are suggested with the aim of including more features to the list of emojis.
The Afro Hair Emoji
Recently, a petition was issued to add Arfo hair emojis. The initiator of the movement #AfroHairMatters, Rhianna Jones, mentions that all emojis have straight Eurocentric hair (Beck). Meanwhile, there are many people who do not have the possibility to identify themselves through a suitable hairstyle emoji, such as Afro-haired ones. According to Jones, hair “defies gravity” and deserves a substantial place in digital communication (Beck). To prove her point, the activist mentions that there are emojis of different genders and skin colors. Thus, adding emojis with varying styles of hair would give more people the right to self-expression.
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The Hijab Emoji
As well as hairstyles, peculiarities of national identity matter much for some individuals. Thus, a girl from Saudi Arabia, Rayouf Alhumedhi, addressed the Unicode Consortium with a request to add an emoji of a headscarf-wearing woman. The fact that there were millions of hijabi women all over the world not having an emoji symbol to represent them was “baffling” to Alhumedhi (Vonberg et al.).
Now the girl, as well as many other females wearing hijab, are satisfied and look forward to using the new emoji. Still, users’ opinions on the news about the symbol are not all positive. Some Internet users argue that the hijab is a symbol of oppression, and adding such an emoji means supporting this negative phenomenon (Vonberg et al.). However, for the majority of users, adding the symbol means increasing opportunities for self-identity.
The ‘Drop of Blood’ Emoji
One more interesting movement signifying the importance of emojis in people’s lives is the introduction of the ‘drop of blood’ emoji. A few months ago, such a sign was accepted and meant to signify menstruation after some others having been refused (Gharib). The inclusion of this emoji implies that people’s personal life and health issues have become an inseparable part of their social lives. With the need to designate one’s feelings and emotions being covered, users started becoming interested in expressing their physical health aspects via emojis. This sign goes hand in hand with Skiba’s suggestion to involve emojis in the system of health care (56). Hence, the introduction of the ‘drop of blood’ emoji is another indication of the increasing importance of this system of digital images.
Having been created as a means of making online communication fun, emojis have gained the outstanding attention of users. The function of emojis has long lost its initial premise of expressing emotions and has moved to demonstrate one’s physical health issues, beliefs, religious identity, and other crucial aspects. Irrespective of age, gender, and other characteristics, all Internet users enjoy utilizing emojis. With the advent of the Internet and a variety of digital means of communication, the only thing lacking was the possibility to share not only information but also feelings. Emojis filled that niche rather successfully, which is proved by users’ constant interest in new symbols and frequent suggestions to the Unicode Consortium.
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Gharib, Malaka. “Why Period Activists Think the ‘Drop of Blood’ Emoji Is a Huge Win.” NPR. 2019. Web.
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