Talk like the Egyptians? The Rise of the Emojis

24th Nov 2015

So ‘Face, with Tears of Joy’ is the first image to be anointed Word of The Year. Is the rise of the Emojis now complete, or does this represent another step towards a world where all of our communications are wholly or mostly, image based?

Not everyone is enamoured with this news. This article from The Guardian, back in May, has been given renewed relevance given last weeks award. The article is entitled – ‘Emoji is dragging us back to the dark agesand all we can do is smile.’ (FYI, previous winners of this award have included – Vape, Chav, Selfie and GIF.)

From the article – ‘So it’s official. We are evolving backwards. Emoji, the visual system of communication that is incredibly popular online, is Britain’s fastest-growing language according to Professor Vyv Evans, a linguist at Bangor University.’ “As a visual language emoji has already far eclipsed hieroglyphics, its ancient Egyptian precursor which took centuries to develop,” says Evans.

From the same piece – ‘There are harsh limits on what you can say with pictures. The written word is infinitely more adaptable. That’s why Greece rather than Egypt leapt forward and why Shakespeare was more articulate than the Aztecs’.

This is a rather extreme view I think – how many of us are able to craft the type of content or communications, created by Shakespeare?

What is important however, is how people feel comfortable when communicating, whether it is via text, Snapchat or when playing computer games. People, especially young people, feel comfortable with Emojis and usage levels are huge. According to research done by Talk Talkmobile – 72% of 18 to 25-year-olds find it easier to express their feelings in Emojis, than through the written word.

Emojis have evolved to fill a specific gap in digital communications. This gap was the previous inability to communicate emotions, especially more subtle ones – across email, text or other digital channels. It is not a perfect solution but it fills a need, making ‘detached’ digital communicating a far more empathetic process. If there is half a truth in the old expression that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, then there is something to be said for the use of imagery in communicating, however simplistic.

Emojis represent another mode of communication that we can choose from, and that we can use across a burgeoning number of digital channels. It is unlikely that our future written/typed communications will only include images (as with the Egyptians), but Emojis are another valuable tool which we can use to connect with each other.