Emoji the great

While spell-check continues to discourage the use of Netspeak, whose heyday lays way behind in the naughties, another, far more effective communication trend is taking its place: emoji. 

When Netspeak is terse and empty, emoji is filled with meaning.

My mother and I share a lot of joy sending emoji back and forth. I share emoji with my friends also, but not to the extent I do with her. This creative little exercise in compiling totally random, unique and whimsical emoji chains is like making a present for the receiver, who always delights in receiving it.

 My mother's emoji use in text message

My mother's emoji use in text message

At least, this is the way it is for us, and I've heard many stories likewise. Recently the Wheeler Centre's Sam Wallman posted an article hopeful for the future of the emoji, noting that the "face with tears of joy" 😂, is the most-used character, which is a perfect visual representation for the effect emoji has on conversation. The article explained that visual art and symbols have been in use for communication far longer than text (495 000 years longer, approximately!), as it has capacities text does not, such as carrying richer meaning: "a picture is worth a thousand words!"  It's also more intuitive, since our minds process thoughts through a mixture of text and image.

My friends Tshepo never uses emojis. This is only because he was once so enthused by them he couldn't resist being creative as he could with them, spending far too much time constructing messages entirely out of emoji instead of words. It seems strange that while emoji are generally more economic in that they take up less space but convey more meaning, they were taking more time. But looking at the case below: in his emoji message he isn't simply conveying "we're going to meet up for coffee after I travel and it will be good," instead it's a much more complex story. Look at the little house with a tree, where he could have chosen a skyscraper; the fact he chose the boy and girl holding hands, instead of two separate faces, for example. The intricacy that went on simply took too much thought, and poor Tshepo had to regretfully go cold turkey.

As long as we're enjoying emoji responsibly, it certainly seems a fun and effective substitute surpassing the failings of Netspeak.