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Emojis: How To Use Them Like a Millennial

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Ever sent a clear, straightforward email — only for it to be horribly misinterpreted?

Maybe the recipient just didn't catch your sarcasm, or thought you sounded snippy when you were actually in a pretty good mood.

That kind of miscommunication happens all the time, and for good reason. Emails and texts make it easy to communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere. But as convenient as texting or emailing is, written communication is not always as efficient as it seems. That's because when we communicate with others, words make up only a fraction of how we get information across.

Face-To-Face vs Email

When you're talking to someone face-to-face, you understand what they're trying to say not only through the words they choose, but by observing their tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and body language, gestures, and other cues.

In fact, research suggests that in some situations, verbal communication makes up less than 10% of what's being communicated!

But we can't just swear off texts and emails for the sake of clarity. It's impractical in the modern era to switch to video conferencing for everything, or insist on face-to-face meetings for every communication. So how can we fill in the gaps?

Do You Speak Sarcasm?

For hundreds of years, people have attempted ways to impart some of that non-verbal communication into text by creating new punctuation, using sarcasm markers, or even a centuries-old irony mark to prevent misunderstandings.

But of all these failed attempts, emojis are the only ones that have really caught on.

What Are Emojis, Exactly?

"Emojis" is the name for small images or icons that often accompany text, intended to express facial expressions, emotions, meaningful objects, and other information.

What made emojis so popular, who uses them, and how?


A Newbie’s Guide to Emojis

A picture is worth a thousand words – maybe that’s why emojis are the go-to way to communicate when we’re messaging each other.

But what exactly are they, where did they come from and why do people love them?

A History of Emoji

Emoji means ‘picture character’ in Japanese.

Emojis are small images used for communicating via text messaging and social media. They’re quick, colorful and can lighten the mood.

  • 1995: Japanese telecoms company Docomo adds a heart symbol to its Pocket Bell pager device, a popular precursor to text messaging in Japan.
  • 1998: Shigetaka Kurita of Docomo invents emoji to add mood and emotion to digital conversation.
  • 1999: i-mode, Docomo’s integrated mobile internet service that features 176 12x12px emojis, launches in Japan.
  • 2004: i-mode grows to 40 million subscribers, giving emojis a huge audience.
  • 2000s: Custom and unofficial emojis become available on various platforms.
  • 2010: Emoji is adapted into Unicode, the computer industry standard for writing and characters.
  • 2011: Emojis go global with Apple’s iOS 5 software update.
  • 2012: The New Yorker releases a cover made up entirely of emojis.
  • 2013: The word ‘emoji’ is added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • 2014: Unicode 7.0 adds 250 emojis as standard, which will be included in future iOS and Android updates.

Why People Love Emojis

We remember more of what we see than what we hear. So it’s no wonder these little ‘picture characters’ have taken off.

Emojis are easier to understand

Average attention spans dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.

Emojis are more convincing

People are 43% more persuasive when using visual aids.

Emojis help us communicate emotion and tone – something difficult to convey in text. But the appeal of emojis could also be in their indefinite meanings. You can say something without explicitly saying it. It’s like body language for text messaging.

The ability to visually read a situation at a glance deteriorates the older we get. Perhaps that’s why emojis are more popular with young people:

50% of 18-29-year-olds have used emojis.


55% of people say the main reason they use emojis is because they’re cute.

Emojis: are we devaluing the way we communicate, or expanding it with creativity?


KeriLynn Engel

About KeriLynn Engel

KeriLynn has worked as a freelance writer for various websites. She is an advocate for domestic abuse victims and has way too many hobbies.


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