You’re going about your day when your phone beeps. You check your iPhone to see that your best friend has sent you a text. When you open the message, the only thing you see is a small yellow face with a teardrop — what does this mean? Welcome to the world of emoji.
Shigetaka Kurita invented emoji in Japan in 1995 and is now regarded by a Wall Street Journal blogger as the “Father of Emoji.” Kurita, having no idea emoji would become popular, intended it to be used for “the world’s first Internet system,” according to technology website techlivewire.com.
What is it about those little, yellow smiley faces that makes them so popular among texters and social media users everywhere? Emojify, an app on both iPhone and Google Play, lets you transform your favorite photos into a “collage of emoji,” according to technology magazine and website, wired.com.
So, why do we need an endless amount of emojis that range from not only different facial expressions, but also to fruits and vegetables to a picture of a shirt and tie?
Assistant Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State Jeffrey Bullins said for the longest time, when people would send texts or emails, there would simply be text — nothing else.
Now that we have made technological advancements in video chat software, such as FaceTime and Skype, Bullins said there is a desire to incorporate multimedia images in conversation like hearts or smiley faces.
“The thing with emojis, too, there’s so many different types now. It adds another level of something that makes someone laugh besides just writing out something funny,” Bullins said.
Andrea Dietz, who is in the Master’s of Science for Teachers (M.S.T.) program, said emojis can make conversations more enjoyable.
Cytotechnology and Biology Major Caitlyn Gibiault said, “Emojis add color to the conversation.”
Bullins said while some understand emoji to be a shortcut for communication, “We have been trying to get shortcuts to express ourselves.”
“Emoji are just coming out of emoticons, which are a text-based way of saying, ‘Oh, I’m smiling,’ or ‘Oh, that comment, because you can’t hear the tone of my voice, I’m going to put a winky face right there, because you need to understand some context.’ I think it’s a good thing we have those shortcuts,” Bullins said.
However, Bullins also said there is a danger in the “loss of your own voice,” or less time spent thinking about what one might say.
Dietz said that sometimes texting can be taken one way or another, and emojis help get the point across, but he understands how some can perceive emojis as a communications barrier.
Information technology major Richard Pinter said that in a professional setting, emoji are out of place.
“Anything you need to say, I think there’s enough words in the language to say it,” Pinter said.
Bullins said that he has his students email him professionally, without the use of emoji or Internet acronyms.
In 2009, Fred Benenson, a self-described “emoji aficionado,” raised funds on Kickstarter to publish an emoji-only version of the novel “Moby Dick.”
This version of the novel is called “Emoji Dick.”
The black and white soft cover version is on sale for $40, while the hardcover color version is $200. The project had 83 total backers, from whom Benenson raised $3,676, $176 more than his goal.
Dietz said the book is “a little excessive.”
Gibiault expressed that using emoji while relaying troubling news to a friend or loved one is inappropriate. She urges emoji users to know the time and place, and when is the right time to use them.
Email Tim Lyman at email@example.com.