This entire post came about because I had no idea what to write, and instead scrolled through my emoji keyboard tapping on whatever stood out to me.
I found myself struck by the unexpected art of it. There were moments of complementation created by my chosen emojis that would not be present, had I typed the words out. Placing a purple heart next to a purple-tinged galaxy made perfect sense. A line of spherical emoji globes culminating in a spherical emoji moon gave the line a kind of sharp visual contrast not found in the English language. There was something in this crazy combination of pictographs and punctuation that reminded me of an experimental foray several months ago—a period in my life (read: a single day last year) when I texted some of my friends and family exclusively in emoji, just to see if I could do it.
My friends understood me with relative ease. My parents, who speak English as a second language (and are distantly familiar with emoji at best), often needed me to translate my pictorial messages. My younger brother understood the easy things, such as references to dinner and school, but it was practically impossible to answer his questions about topics in his chemistry class. I highly doubt he would’ve been able to understand the intricacies of electron orbital diagrams through emoji-speak. There are certain things—like the proper illustration of a covalent bond—that cannot be sufficiently explained in cheery little emoticons.
The advent of emojis is extremely reminiscent of logographic languages, several of which are long gone. Hieroglyphics, cuneiform, Japanese kanji and Chinese characters have already “been there, done that” in terms of communicating in pictures. In fact, the word emoji itself isn’t even a reference to the word “emotion”; rather, it’s a portmanteau of two Japanese words: “e” (picture) and “moji” (character). It’s pretty cool that emoji, as a modern extension of the English language, has created this kind of circular timeline. I am continually impressed by how universal emojis are—not everyone speaks the same language, but everyone understands a smiling face as being representative of happiness.
Sometimes, I feel like meaning is lost when too many words get in the way. I have this bad habit of over-explaining things, so much so that it becomes necessary for me to repeat the points I was trying to make. I also tend to digress rather horribly because something I say will trigger a thought that leads me down an entirely different mental path, thus resulting in me talking way too much for way too long. Of course, sometimes the exact opposite happens and I find myself at a complete loss for words, unable to express myself or describe what I’m feeling, and I just wish that the other person could see what I see in my head. In-person, we aren’t restricted to just words or just pictures: the beauty of interpersonal interactions is that they are rife with gestures, body language, expressions, and tone (all elements that are conspicuously absent from texting). However, I feel like the popularity of emojis has exponentially advanced our ability to be understood in writing (@Rutgers let me write an essay in emojis please) and I’m excited to see where the evolution of textual language goes next.