Thursday, July 17, 2014


a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication.
"emoji liven up your text messages with tiny smiley faces"      

The word emoji means “picture letter” in Japanese. But when were these pictures developed? Wasn't it just yesterday I didn't even have a cell phone or computer? According to my lengthy web-based research, "although emoji weren't officially part of the Unicode Standard until 2010, the colorful cartoon symbols have been a major part of Japanese smartphone culture since 1998, when they debuted as a cute software feature on local phones".1 These guys date all the way back to the late 1990s.

What are these annoying little faces, hearts, and animal pictures found in all the text messages, emails, and Facebook posts I see? Why they're emojis, of course. But where did they come from? How did we get from no cellular devices to text messages filled with emojis?

The other day I received a text message from my mother, appropriately (right?) using an emoji.

Am I proud of her? For using an emoji? Not really. Because she is a writer. And because I am a writer. I rely upon the written word to convey message, tone, intention. I have written 20 blog posts in this space and have yet to reply upon the emoji. My mom doesn't need this picture crutch either. I believe she is witty enough to send her love without pictorially kissing me. That's okay, because I do use xx (an emoticon, see explanation below) to send her kisses. 

But it's when someone is trying to convey humor with a jk or lol or even a  that I think "really, that's all you've got?" I wish my texter would come up with some clever wording to express himself. If he did, I'd understand his text was not to be taken seriously. 

So is using an emoji a crutch? Is texting not supposed to be quick, easy, no thoughtfulness in expression techniques needed? I don't know. I suppose the answer is yes. But that only makes me dislike texting, along with the emojis, even more.

I only like emojis for their artistic value. I know this is strange. I don't value the emoji for its ability to wink at me with a cartoon character representation. I enjoy the facial expression that marks the wink.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: what is the difference between an emoticon and an emoji, you ask? Simply put, an emoticon is a symbol made with keypad characters. The ;-) wink I am a fan of (occasionally). 

An emoji, on the other hand, is a cartoon drawing of a face winking, the now present in many of my text messages. And, just in case you are new to the world of emoji, do not worry. There is an Emojipedia, to look up all meanings emoji. You can practice using them thanks to the addition of the emoji language keyboard on smartphones. has emojis for just about everything.

Now that you know what an emoji is, you can feel free to never use one again. No, not seriously. Promoters of emojis (cell phone companies) are pushing the benefits of emojis. "In a time of text messages with 140 or 60 character limits, and emoji being a single character, it could go a long way."2 This makes me sad.



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