The Emoji: Is it Conversation Hell or Heaven?

Everyone is texting, not to mention the numbers of young people […and adults, too. if you will admit it!] who are also sexting these days. In a time where cell phones have replaced landline phones, you can take these with you wherever you go. Right along with this new cell phone generation, is the text message. Everyone is texting. No phone calls- just text messages.

Gone are the days when if we wanted to have a conversation, deeply private talks or just checking in with another person, we would actually pick up a landline telephone and speak real English. If you are old enough to remember, most of those telephones had authentic rotary dialing-no tones. In fact, the expression, “hang up the phone”, originated out of the fact that the earpiece had to be hung up on top of the phone base. Today, when we wish to do the same thing, it is via text messages on mobile devices, mostly smartphones

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The thing about text messages though, is that they are rarely written in grammatically-correct sentences. It is all in shorthand. Fragmented sentences. Abbreviations and acronyms like, ‘WTF’ and ‘lol’ are used to express our innermost thoughts. We ask others ‘wyd’ instead of ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘Are you busy?’ What about the ABC network TV show called, ‘WWYD'[What Would You Do]! It has gone viral- and oh so mainstream.

It seems that just as I am beginning to understand these abbreviated terms, they’ve gone and added a new layer of difficulty to the equation. We now see emojis….everywhere. These emojis are images that are used to convey some type of emotion or behavior as an expression of our reactions to some external stimuli. When something is funny to us, we say ‘LMAO’, or has that changed to something new already? 

I ask the question about learning new words to increase our vocabulary. Is it relevant any more? How does this new lingo impact schools and Language Arts instruction where students are given weekly vocabulary words to spell and use in sentence format? Is it still relevant? What about the art of the written word, storytelling, and the ability to communicate our thoughts and ideas on paper or via a word processing program? Will books morph into continuous emojis as a means to creating prose or literary works?

Emojis have advanced and expanded. In fact, they have exploded, going from a simple, :), the smiley face, to everything under the sun. It has become a language all by itself. It is possible to use images alone, no words at all, to convey full messages. For parents who are basically ‘old school’ such as myself, these damned things represent a real generation gap.

woman in teal white and black plaid dress shirt standing beside brown wall

Emojis can be likened to my speaking in Pig Latin when I was growing up. Pig Latin was used among kids when parents were around, in order that they didn’t know what your conversation was about. Emojis are cryptic in a similar way. Remember when they were called, ‘emoticons‘?? Your kids can now have fully cryptic conversations without you understanding one word or image, as it were. It is like a secret language, and almost hieroglyphic in appearance. Parents,  with the help of technology and creativity, the times have demanded that you ‘get with it’, if you want to know what your children are saying and doing. Your awareness does not constitute spying, either. It’s simply called ‘parenting’.

But, the thing is that not only are teens and tweens using emojis  in text messages. Adults are using them, as well. You now see them in online posts and messages on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and professional networking sites like LinkedIn. In a lot of ways, it is unbelievable and somewhat counter-intuitive to professionalism itself, that career-minded professionals in all industries communicate with them, too. At one point, I thought that these expressions were too casual to be considered appropriate for a professional networking platform, such as LinkedIn.

To my surprise, they are normalized and totally acceptable.  These damn millennials have taken the art of communication and the rules of engagement to a new level. When are they appropriate and inappropriate? What I do know for certain is that I must raise my level of awareness. I must step up my game. I suggest that all parents and grandparents read the emoji dictionary and keep up with your kids. Ageism is real and the inability to comprehend or communicate with emojis does nothing more than scream out that you are ‘irrelevant’, out of the loop.

I decided to write about this because a friend, a male suitor, sent a text message to me with the last one being a blue heart. I had to check with Google to decipher its meaning. Wow! I feel old.  Learn to speak Emoji, and become fluent in it. It is clearly here to stay, and either we are relevant or we fade away. For myself, I often feel as though this is purgatory-neither heaven nor hell- until I consult with an Emoji dictionary. Yes, that’s a thing, too. 🙂

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