Did I get you with that headline? Here’s what you came for: Tyler Schnoebelen, a Stanford-trained linguist at the forefront of research in today’s use of emojis discovered through his analysis of emoticon use on Twitter that a divide exists between people who include a hyphen to represent a nose in smiley faces— :-) and people who use the shorter version without the hyphen— :). “The nose is associated with conventionality. People using a nose also tend to spell words out completely. They use fewer abbreviations. People who use no noses tend to be tweeting more about Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber. They have younger interests, younger concerns, whether or not they’re younger.”
Okay, wait. The “forefront of research in emojis?” That’s real?
Evidently so. The #IS6621 feed itself has spoken several times to the uptick in use of emojis by brands and marketers in a variety of ways. During the Super Bowl, we saw the branded hashtag emoji give some extra color to our Twitter feeds, and now, more and more, we’re seeing brands embracing the emoji and all it has to offer.
Which begs the question: what exactly do emojis have to offer?
It’s no mystery that emojis have become part of the way we communicate. I didn’t realize prior to doing some digging and reading that some people are actually in semi-panic mode about the possibility (or reality) that emojis are replacing– or at the least diminishing– written language. If you’re on the same wavelength as me, this probably sounds a bit dramatic to say the least, but the fact that emojis are becoming increasingly commonplace in the messages we send and use to communicate proves that there’s real value there, and that we should definitely think about the implications.
When we think about emojis, our first instinct is likely to envision the handful that we most frequently use. These are, by definition, the ones we believe best express our tone and our emotion in many of the messages we send. The way we use them differs based on our gender, the recipient(s), the channel, the friend group, the context, and more. Overall, research has shown that we interact with emojis much in the same way we do with real faces. When we see a smiling emoticon, our brain reacts much in the same way it does when we see a real face. Messages with emoticons are seen as more enjoyable and personal, and in general, people think messages with emojis are written by writers that are more committed. For brands and marketers, this is a no-brainer. Using emojis can help a brand achieve a more personable and unconventional tone, and appeal to the all-important ~millennials.~
However, a brand that doesn’t completely agree is Always. As part of its #LikeaGirl campaign, they called attention to the message sent by the selection of emojis itself; namely, the utter lack of female emojis portrayed doing activities outside of getting a manicure, doing a hair flip, or being a bride. The Unicode Consortium (the emoji gods) is not new to these criticisms, having rolled out non-white emojis just last year in response to a lack of diversity among emoji skin tones. Still, Always found that 67% of girls feel that emojis subtly reinforce societal stereotypes by implying that girls are limited in what they can do.
The director of the campaign spot, documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker commented, “Society has a tendency to send subtle messages that can limit girls to stereotypes. As someone who has studied sociolinguistics, I know the kind of impact even seemingly innocuous language choices can have on girls.”
In response, Always calls on girls to share the emojis they would like to see– a way to show girls everywhere what the reality of their potential actually is. Although emojis aren’t fundamentally essential to our ability to communicate, I think ensuring that they reflect reality is just as important as it is in any other media portrayal.
Do we lose any value or voice in a limited selection of emojis? What do you think?