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Emojies as a Medium of Communication

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Emoji is defined as an image or an expressive face or cartoon that is used to convey emotions in writing on cell phones, texts or online chats. Over the past few years, emoji have gained popularity like never before. This can directly be associated with the rapid advance and the takeover of the social media as primary means of communication. With platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among others, emoji have become a more relevant means of communication to most people.

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What’s really interesting is that this is not something we’re born with as babies. It’s something our brains have developed in the last few years with the emergence of emoticons and emojis

Essentially, social media culture has created a new brain pattern within us. They’re changing our speech patterns. Both emoticons and emojis are recognized and processed by the brain as nonverbal information, which mean we read them as emotional communication, not words. And emotional communication can just as important as words in conveying a message clearly. For example, in spoken communication, researchers now know that if speakers aren’t allowed to use gestures, they becomes less fluent. Essentially, emojis are doing what the tone of voice does on the telephone and what expressions and gestures do in face-to-face communication. There’s even evidence that emojis are actually shifting our vocabulary.Instagram discovered that as emoji use goes up, Internet slang like “rofl,” “bae,” etc., goes down as users choose their emoji counterparts instead. On Instagram, emoji are becoming a near-universal method of expression—Instagram reports that nearly 50 percent of all captions and comments on Instagram now have an emoji or two. The app recently added the ability to use emoji as hashtags, opening up the first chance to gather real data on how people use emojis and what they use them to signify.

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A further general risk of miscommunication can be discovered with another example of platform-specific depiction: The “PILE OF POO” emoji. If viewed on Apple devices it seems to beam with joy, on Microsoft it is faceless, on Samsung it merely has eyes, and on Google devices it was circled by flies until Android 5.0. The origin of this emoji can be found in Japan, where it means something along the lines of luck (the Japanese word for poo [unko] begins with the same “oon”-sound as a word that means “luck”. The Japanese clearly enjoy this pun and it is not uncommon to give away a golden pile of poo as a nice gesture [cf. Healy 2015]). Are these modern hieroglyphs the beginning of a new language? The co-founder and president of Unicode Mark Davis concedes that emojis could one day evolve into something more

He would not call it a "language" at the moment but it could develop into one, like Chinese did (cf. Bromwich 2015). When we use emoji in a text it is often to supplement or enhance the writing. Similar to gestures in a face-to-face-conversation. Rarely our natural language is ever limited to speech alone. Because of this language is called "mulit-modal". But emoji are not only used as embellishments by their users. Often they are strung together into a sequence which can convey meaning. But to function as a language, emoji would need a key component: grammar (cf. Cohn 2015).

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On the whole, the use of emoji may also reflect a desire for positive, kind and supportive expression on social media platforms. The majority of emoji used are positive, and these are the most commonly used emoji. People expressed positive emotion through a wide variety of emoji including happy faces, hearts and celebration graphics, whereas negative emotion was expressed almost exclusively through sad faces

Some suggest that cartoonish emoji are inherently positive in nature and their popularity has arisen as a response to the negativity of the online commentary, and usage has increased as an “anecdote to the incivility” online.

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Bromwich, Jonah: How Emojis Find Their Way to Phones. The New York Times 2015.

Cohn, Neil: Will emoji become a new language? BBC Future 2015.

Dewey, Caitlin: Why is July 17 the date on the emoji calendar? The Washington Post 2014.

Fahlman, Scott E.: Smiley Lore :-).

Healy, Claire Marie: What does the stinky poop emoji really mean? Dazed 2015.

Jibril, Tanimu Ahmed & Abdullah, Mardziah Hayati: Relevance of Emoticons in Computer-Mediated Communication Contexts: An Overview. Canadian Center of Science and Education 2013.

Lenhart, Amanda: Teens, Smartphones & Texting (2012). Pew Research Center.

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