As someone who is busy trying to forge a career using nothing but words, it’s somewhat inevitable that I’ve tried my best to resist the rise of Emojis.
Unfortunately I’m old enough to remember creating my own emoticons with nothing but a colon, a hyphen and a parenthesis on an indestructible old Nokia handset, so the thought of a series of detailed illustrations for just about every mood or occurrence you can imagine was always going to blow my mind a little, digital native Millennial or not.
Rather than be excited by this brave new world of visual language however, I must confess that I’ve largely stayed away from the emoji board on my phone in the same way as I’ve steadfastly refused to sacrifice characters and use text speak. Sometimes I feel this puts me in the slightly odd position of being a (relatively) young person who can act typically old, i.e. slightly scared of new developments in technology and language. It’s not that I want to burn anyone wearing an iWatch at the stake (although I can’t say the same for Google Glass users) but I draw a line when it comes to my beloved words. I mean, sure, Emoji are great for clearing up sentiment, but how often do you realistically need to use a picture of an Easter Island statue or a poo with eyes?
It seems I’m not quite the only one who’s sticking to communicating with words though, as a recent survey of Facebook users has shown the ways in which english speakers like to laugh on Zuckerberg’s social network.
Interestingly, a very traditional ‘haha’ (and variations such as ‘hahahhaa’ and ‘hah’) managed to edge out the competition with 51.4%. Emoji usage was a very close second with 33.7% whilst the sick and wrong ‘hehe’ clocked up 13.1%. Meanwhile the poor, unloved ‘lol’ was left trailing behind with meagre 1.9%.
If you think this seems unusual in a digital landscape where the inhabitants get younger all the time, then you’d probably be right. It’s safe to say that Facebook’s slightly unusual findings are not indicative of a trend back towards the written word, but more a symptom of its main demographic.
It’s no secret that Generation Y have been deserting Facebook in favour of Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat in an attempt to escape their parents, who now flock to the site to reconnect with their long lost school friends, spy on said kids and generally repost spurious videos without checking Snopes first.
Language is always changing, as we can see by the numerous additions to the OED every year, and the increase of visual communication seems to be the next emerging step. We probably shouldn’t replace our QWERTY keyboards with specialist emoji-boards just yet though, as a compromise between the two is arguably still being thrashed out.
Still, I think I know which side of the line I’ll always be standing on. I’m far too stubborn to change. A picture may say a thousand words but when those words are about an anthropomorphic turd there’s not much appeal.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put my slippers back on and crank up the gramophone. :-p.