Complicated ideas are under attack. We live in a dystopian ‘newspeak’ realm of 140 character tweets, simplistic yet popular ‘meme culture’, and more recently ‘fake news’ from our orangutan friend and all-powerful overlord, Donald Trump. This warrants a conversation about words- the building blocks of ideas.
Or rather, the lack of- the zenith of which is the humble emoji.
Emojis have their perks:
They’re so easy, even my Grandma can use ’em
My 85 yr old Gran uses the 👑 emoji in the family Whatsapp so that everyone knows she’s ‘Queen Bee’ 👵👌 pic.twitter.com/z3tbCOOZtD
— Oliver Brett (@OliverBrett) January 14, 2017
They’re a lot snappier than words
- 👍 can be deployed to say ‘sure/ okay/ I agree/ yes/ let’s do that/ nice one’.
- 👀 is an effective method of telling your conversation partner that you’re a little spooked or speechless with what they’ve just said. 😶 also works but it’s not nearly as intense.
- 🙊🙉🐵the monkeys can also cut any conversation dead by telling the person you’re talking to that you’re a little bitch.
They’re great for your idiot idiolect
- 🍆 is the classic example of the comically phallic proportions of an aubergine/eggplant. It’s all about knowing how best to use it.
- 🙃 I was once sent this after cancelling on someone last minute. It perfectly encapsulates ‘well fuck you, then’ without coming across aggressive. It’s a very peaceful rebellion, and ideal for shy people with a strong internal voice.
- 🌝 The cheeky moon, especially on iPhones, encapsulates “a particular brand of suffering” as one friend says. A sense of self-aware, restrained hopelessness which is tricky to describe with mere words.
- Everyone has their own special meaning for different emojis which they share with the people they communicate with, which creates a sense of community. Especially in those horrible, never ending, group chats.
You can create works of art with them
- The best example of which is probably this emoji-powered twitter feed aquarium:
🌾 🌿 🌱
— Emoji Aquarium (@EmojiAquarium) February 26, 2017
- And then there’s also this dumb Reddit copypasta, which I inexplicitly can’t get enough of:
- Part of what makes any art with emojis impressive is how the artist is restricted by the system within which they are operating. You can paint literally anything in any colour, but the skill with emojis is in using your limited pallet in the most creative way possible.
It’s not all pretty pictures though
Part of the strength of the totalitarian regime in Orwell’s ‘1984’ was their capacity to dumb-down language. To restrict free thought they intentionally reduced the number of words their citizens could utter, and in the process, eliminated the proletariat’s capacity to think creatively.
While I’m not claiming that the international Illuminati is actively seeking to disrupt our capacity to think for ourselves using the poop 💩emoji (Trump is president.), there is a danger in becoming reliant on symbolism for communication.
Who decides what becomes an emoji? Who decides what order they appear on your keyboard? Do the many platforms (Apple, Facebook, Samsung, Microsoft, etc.) change the entire meaning of an emoji depending on what device you send/receive it on? What happens when corporations and political parties buy their way into the emoji market?
Part of the draw of emojis is that they enable us to expand on written meaning with minimal effort. It takes a lot of time and thought to write in a way that clarifies entirely what you mean, and it’s impossible to be 💯% clear when expressing emotions. It’s especially difficult to write in a complex tolkien-esque way when it’s pouring down outside, you’re wading through puddles while you type on your phone, and you really just want a lift home from the train station ASAP.
However, the flip side is becoming entirely reliant upon a pre-determined list of canned responses. There may well be hundreds of emojis on Emojipedia, but there’s an infinite number of ways to say “put down your phone and come talk to me”, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. He typed.