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Emojis and Sociolinguistics

I wasn’t quite sure what to title this post, as with most others. I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about emojis over the last few days. I know that seems a bit silly, but I tend to notice differences in writing and speaking. Over analyzing is what I do. In addition, if I have learned one thing from the masters courses in sociolinguistics, it’s that the language we choose is paramount to who we are. Whether conscious or not, we decide how we want people to perceive us. And that’s what got me started on emojis.

Emojis are funny entities. In one hand, they are old. I’m not sure they were called emojis back in the days of MSN, Yahoo, or ICQ, but they certainly existed on those systems. I even remember creating my own symbols when what I wanted wasn’t in existence. I used MS Paint to change the red rose to a white rose. Nevertheless, I think that the usage of emojis has evolved to a point of almost ubiquitous understanding.

Prior to about a week ago, I never used emojis when texting people. In fact, I tried to keep my messages as straight forward as possible. But one thing that I have noticed in my own usage is the reasoning behind my usage. Yes, as the name suggests, emojis are a digital expression of emotions. However, the cool thing about emojis are that they allow us to choose which emotion we project. In essence, emojis are the tone of our voice when texting. They allow people to choose the way their words are perceived. I think this is pretty cool.

My original thinking was that emojis were lazy writing. However, I no longer think this is the case. On the spectrum of communication, texting is far closer to talking as it is to writing, especially in the aspect of speed. When messaging in quick succession, developing a sense of tense, mood, and aspect are nearly impossible parts of speech. So, while I would still not advocate for using emojis in writing papers or books, I think they hold an invaluable place in interpersonal communication. A piece that allows us to make decisions about how we want to be perceived. And that’s powerful.

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