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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Emojis: The Universal Language Of The Digital Age

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People no longer rely on words alone to communicate how they feel. Thanks to the little characters (also known as emojis), our communication styles have undergone a huge transformation. As shown by ExpressVPN’s blog piece, emojis have come to be seen and accepted as the universal language of the digital age. I hope this is not your “Whoa, WHAT?!” moment. All of this has happened right under our close watch.

It’s still fascinating to see how many of us think emojis can express us better than words ever could. Do you want to know more about this transformation? And do you want to judge if emojis can be trusted to express our feelings and thoughts? If yes, I suggest you stick through this article until the end.

A Brief History Of Emojis

You might wonder how and when emojis came into being or when they rose to such prominence that they started being chosen over words!

Well, emojis were invented by the Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita in 1999. He was inspired by the emoticons used in chatrooms, like 🙂 signified a smile, and 😉 hinted towards something flirtatious. But, he wanted to create something that would be more precise in capturing feelings and conveying information.

This led to Kurita developing a total of 176 emojis that are now present in the New York Museum of Modern Art. However, Kurita’s collection gave more weight to symbols instead of faces.

Then, in 2007, a team of engineers at Google asked the Unicode Consortium to create a universal standard for emojis. After this, Yasuo Kida and Peter Edberg, two engineers at Apple, requested the Unicode Standard to include 625 new emojis. This proposal was accepted in 2010, thereby making emojis a legitimate form of digital communication.

In 2011, Apple became the first to add a keyboard containing emojis for its iOS devices. Android followed in its footsteps around two years later. And today, emojis have become the preferred mode of expressing feelings in online communication across the globe.

Usage Of Emojis Across The Globe

Although people widely use emojis to communicate, you would be surprised to know that the way they are used differs greatly. Ever since emojis entered the texting space, there have been a lot of surveys to study how different people use emojis, considering various factors.

The above-mentioned survey was conducted to celebrate World Emoji Day on July 17, 2023, and included 1,000 participants from four countries— France, Germany, Spain, and the U.S. The aim here was to understand how the society perceives emojis.

For example, it was found that people in Spain are more likely to use emojis while texting as compared to people in the U.S. Around 40% of the Spanish participants use emojis while texting on social media and in emails. In comparison, only 26% of the U.S. participants admitted to doing the same.

When asked if emojis could be trusted to convey emotions accurately, over half of the American participants (51%) said that they didn’t think it was possible. In fact, more than half of the participants from all four countries have agreed to use emojis to hide how they truly felt.

The usage of emojis not only varies from country to country but also across genders. Let’s take the infamous heart emoji, for example. Women often use it to show support and care for their friends. However, it has been found that men rarely do so for their friends and typically use red heart emojis to communicate their romantic feelings.

Apart from this, age is another major determinant of how emojis are used. For example, Generation Z (GenZ) no longer uses the crying-laughing face emojis (😂) to show that they are laughing. Why? They have now started seeing it as outdated, something that people from their parent’s generation would use. Instead, they prefer using the skull face emoji (💀) or the actual crying emoji (😭). And well, this is something that Millenials neither understand nor prefer doing.

Although emoticons (emotion+ icons) are used to convey emotions, you’ll be surprised to know the interpreted meaning of an emoji is different from its intended meaning more often than not! For example, the innocuous smiling emoji (🙂) is considered passive-aggressive by most. So, in place of that, 😊 is used.


Given the ambiguity around the meaning of emojis, it’s natural to wonder if emojis can truly replace words. And well, even this question garners mixed responses. For example, around 53% of Americans believe emojis should never be used professionally in business communication. Because of their mixed interpretation, they are too casual or informal for the workplace and can result in awkward scenarios with coworkers.

However, there are a few things that almost everyone can agree on when it comes to using emotions. For example, context is important when interpreting any emoticon’s meaning. To understand what an emoji can convey, you need to consider the conversation’s topic, who is using it, and in what setting.

Next, although there are hundreds of different emojis, we still need more of them to capture our feelings, diversity, better representation, and more. Nearly 33% of the US participants agreed to the same.

This shows that even though emojis have become a universal component of language in the digital age, their meaning and usage have still not become universal. Whether this status of emojis changes in the future or not is yet to be seen.


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