Monday, July 17, 2017

An Ode to the Emoji

This morning, around 4 a.m., seized by a wave of hayfever, I dangled half-in, half-out of bed as my nose dripped steadily and reached for a box of tissues. I felt around for my phone and, squinting, began to look at that messages that had trickled through in response to my Instagram Stories the night before.

"Your new bathroom looks great!" said one.

"Floor goals!" read another.

"Omg, you must be so excited!" said a third.

With one eye shut, I began to type replies using only my right thumb: heart emoji, I tapped, in response to the first message. Blushing smiley face, I replied to another. Two-raised hands, I answered to the third.

Satisfied that I had conveyed the appropriate level of enthusiasm, I dropped my phone and tried to fall back asleep, sneezing four or five times in the process and causing John to jerk the covers over his head.

Emoji(s)* have become my lazy way of responding to practically anything and anyone. Sometimes, I use them to enhance a message ("Omg just dropped my dinner on the floor noooooo!!!" Followed by five crying emoji(s), five being sufficient to express my current state of distress), but most of the time ... I just use it as my preferred method of communication. Why bother forming a complete, coherent sentence when my exact thoughts and feelings can be summed up in a single, cute graphic? My most overused emoji(s) are:

1) the laughing face with tears streaming out of the eyes

2) the tilted laughing face with tears streaming out of the eyes

3) the see-no-evil monkey

4) the say-no-evil monkey

5) the red heart.

If I could hold up different emoji(s) on signs instead of speaking to people at work, I'd do it. If I could communicate with new people I've recently met at parties solely using emoji(s), I'd love it. I'm anti-social; I dislike talking to people and looking them in the eye. I'd prefer to respond to the question, "And what do you do for a living?" with the flamenco dancer emoji, followed by the poop emoji. No, I don't know what that combination means either, but it would make a great (emoji) conversation starter.

"Grow up," the hate-readers of this blog will say. Actually, I think my over-zealous use of emoji(s) is a particularly mature approach to handling the bazillion messages I receive every day from friends, family members, and followers alike. I want to make sure that I'm responding to every person who takes the time to send me a compliment or question, and, well, emoji(s) are just darn useful for this task.

If you don't believe me, ask American data engineer, Fred Benenson, who was quoted in this article by the Independent, saying: "I've been fascinated with the amount of meaning you can convey with such simple characters. Telling stories, movie recaps, expressing complex emotion – it's partially about the frivolity, but it's also about engaging a part of your brain which uses symbolic and visual thinking, something that I love to do. I also think it has the potential to bridge language barriers."

Ah, that final sentiment about bridging language barriers rings so true: my 92-year-old grandma is a WhatsApp whizz and sends me numerous messages throughout the day from her home in Hong Kong. I may not be able to read the complex string of Chinese attached to her selfie in the mall, but I get the laughing face with tears streaming out of its eyes which follows. This morning, I responded to one such photo with the heart-eye emoji (three, to be exact - it's grandma!).

What about you? Are you an emoji over-user/abuser?

*Note: there is debate over the correct plural form of emoji. Some say "emoji", some say "emojis". I'll leave this up to you to bicker over.

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