- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes

Emojis: Beyond Words

Page 1 of 12

Lola Brière de la Hosseraye Introduction to Media Studies

Emojis: Beyond words

December 2016


The present article is based on academic research and collected data: I led qualitative interviews with 8 people between 20 and 78 years old (about 30 minutes each) and had a questionnaire of 7 questions answered by 147 respondents solicited through Facebook.

A few weeks ago, my friend who I was supposed to meet up with bailed on me while I was already waiting for her in the street. “So sorry! I figured we would be meeting later!” she wrote. Well, you figured wrong I thought, because I can see a few messages up on my messenger app that we had defined a time to meet up, and this time is now. I was a bit irritated, because I had walked quite a bit to get there. But I didn’t want to come out as aggressive either. I typed my answer, and undertook to look into my Emoji keyboard to find an appropriate “Not cool, but it’s okay “ face. But I could not find it. Among the diverse range of human emotions the app offered to send for me, my feeling was not represented. There sure was some “negative” emotions

faces, but neither the “face with cold sweat“ emoji  nor the truly angered “pouting

face”  seemed to quite make it. Actually, using a playful yellow and somehow childish image to convey a feeling of annoyance felt wrong. As if it was only okay to use emojis in a positive context, or in a detached or ironic way. More interestingly though is that I found myself panicking a little: I had to answer fast, she was waiting on the other side, and I did not want to be misunderstood. Unable to truly express how I felt, I went for a bland “it’s okay”.

Why did I find myself dependant on emojis to render my state of mind? Had I been used to not bother with words and just let a yellow roundish face to speak for me? How had this 3 year old device come to carry such responsibility in my social interactions? All of these questions required some investigation. My mother, always quick to give her opinion, gave me her premise: “People are lazy! We have lost the meaning of words and can’t bother using an extended vocabulary” was the reaction I feared. Was this really a this-ignorant-generation-is-doomed kind of phenomenon? In her 2011 master’s thesis at the University of Calgary, What does txting Do 2lLanguage, Joah H. Lee argues that exposure to and use of pop language (which


emojis have been considered a part of) leads to a diminution in people’s acceptance of vocabulary, thus reducing it considerably1.

If some might see emojis as taking us straight back to the dark ages of illiteracy, I was convinced that there was more behind it. I asked 147 peers from within my social network about their use of emoji : when asked if their resort to emojis could be linked to a laziness to use words, 60% of them answered by the negative. (“I strongly disagree” and “not really”). 20,4% of them admitted that it would only “sometimes” be the case, and a little less than 20% agreed to the statement. If there was not a total disapproval –or validation- of this assumption, it at least showed that the use of emojis is a little more complex than a conservative, generation-bridging cliché view of it.

Seeing my 78 years old step father’s use and abuse of emojis, I thought perhaps it might less be about a generation and more about the medium itself. There’s a reason why chat apps are called “instant messaging”. When you speak by text, Whatsapp or Facebook messenger for instance, there is the assumption that the interlocutor is on the other side of the screen at the same time, maintaining an simultaneous conversation. Actually, if someone does not answer fast to a message

1 Joan Hwechong Lee, What does txting do 2 language? The influences of exposure to messaging and print media on acceptability constraints. University of Calgary. 2011


we begin to wonder if something’s wrong. This is called synchronous communication. It designates communications between two or more individuals that takes place simultaneously though not necessarily at the same location. People who criticize emojis the same way they’ve been criticizing abbreviations in text messages forget that this type of communication is happening instantly. It is not like writing a letter, nor even an email. The concept of time and its elasticity vary greatly according to the type of communication process. In instant messaging, information has to be communicated fast as well as all the intentions that come with it. Rich vocabulary or nuances of words are missing in computer mediated communication

Download as (for upgraded members)
Citation Generator

(2017, 03). Emojis: Beyond Words. Retrieved 03, 2017, from

"Emojis: Beyond Words" 03 2017. 2017. 03 2017 <>.

"Emojis: Beyond Words.", 03 2017. Web. 03 2017. <>.

"Emojis: Beyond Words." 03, 2017. Accessed 03, 2017.