Emojis are part of our day-to-day communication — a language for the modern era. These little icons are no longer just the period at the end our sentences. They are the sentence, period.
And lately, this visual mode of expression has become a descriptive; users are verbally describing emojis in spoken sentences. For example, after asking my boyfriend to get me something from the other room a little *too* sharply, I found myself saying, out loud, “Heart-eye emoji!!”
What is your texting language? Just like the theory (and popular book) “The Five Love Languages,” where each individual uses a language to express love, do we each have our own emoji language?
Curious about how emojis are seemingly more powerful than words, I reached out to Taylor Hermerding, English editor at Babbel.com, the leading language app. “With a reported 7 billion emojis available across everything from mobile phones to social platforms, they could be the fastest-growing language in history,” Hermerding said. He says they now cover more than just faces and generic objects, as companies — and even countries — have created their own bespoke icons.
He also adds that there’s some truth to the theory that emoji use is just a lazy way of communicating, because conveying information with an image is easier than typing a full or partial sentence. One image can convey anything from “I’m crying tears of joy” to “I’m thinking,” or “I’m shrugging my shoulders now.”
However, Hermerding says that emojis also help to express emotion and other unspoken information that’s often hard to get across in written communication. “Think of them as the facial expressions and body language of text-speak,” he says. “Plus, when 70-90 per cent of the meaning of a face-to-face conversation is transmitted by non-verbal cues, any help conveying the true meaning of what’s being communicated when we write is something to celebrate.”
Amanda Taylor, a social-savvy, twentysomething friend of mine, who is also publicist, has a way with words. Taylor says using emojis has helped her navigate through dating apps, especially since she’s fresh out of a six-year relationship and hasn’t had to talk to potential partners via text in a very long time.
“All these guys on these apps are so complimentary, and it makes me feel a bit weird — I don’t know how to respond, because I’m not used to getting this kind of attention,” Taylor said. “So, instead of just not responding, or writing a blanket ‘Thanks!’ which can leave them feeling rejected, I thank them for their sweet words, and wrap the sentence with ‘The-eyes-looking-up-and-a-little-teary’ emoji.” She says it makes her seem bashful and she uses it to express when something a suitor expressed was meaningful to her. This emoji use kind of made me laugh out loud (or, as she would say, LOL!).
Recently, popular dating app Bumble has added a new feature called “reactions,” where users can react with an emoji to specific parts of someone’s profile, like a picture, but only after two people are matched on the app.
“We’ve noticed that a lot of people are eager to find meaningful relationships after experiencing months of social distancing and feelings of loneliness,” a rep for Bumble Canada told the Star via email. “Given that there are a lot of complexities around dating during this time, and after seeing some matches expire before a conversation could kick off, we wanted to introduce new features like ‘Emoji Reactions’ to make it easier to connect with someone new.”
Taylor is grateful for features like this, and has noticed in conversations on various dating apps how helpful it is to be able to use emojis as a way of expressing herself. She describes herself as someone who gets in her head and over-analyzes dating situations. After some cool back-and-forth banter with one man, she was on edge when he took a while to respond. But when his message came in, it said “OMG,” with what she calls “the horny face emoji.” She said that if he had just said “OMG,” she might have assumed he was turned off with their exchange. But by using that emoji in particular, she interpreted is as … Game on.
Inspired while writing this piece, I sent my boyfriend a ‘how-we-met’ story, using just emojis. Sweetly, I got a heart of approval in return.