Don’t rely on emojis

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

While emojis can be considered a “universal language,” with 90 percent of the world’s internet users using them, they ultimately hinder genuine communication.

Because emojis are image- rather than character-based, emojis have the ability to transcend language barriers. However, emojis tend to have subjective meanings, which leads to increased misunderstanding.

New technology such as EmojiNet, a computer that catalogs the potential meanings for emojis, has been developed in order to bridge the lapse in understanding. The existence of these systems proves the discrepancies in emoji meaning and common confusion.

Think of how often teenagers recruit their peers to decode the meaning of a crush’s text, or parents ask their children to translate the undertones of an ironically placed emoji. A means of communication that so frequently requires outside interpreters can not be considered universally understandable.

Emojis also inadequately replace real-life conversation cues.

There are 2,823 emojis in the Unicode Standard, many of those being the same icon with different skin color selections. A vocabulary of 3,000 words in a language is considered sufficient for everyday conversation. A natural chain of logic would seem like emojis then provide a sufficient alternative for communicating.

In fact, emoticons – the symbols made through combinations of keyboard characters that preceded emojis – have been found to be useful to strengthen a message when paired with text.

A study found that emoticons “serve as nonverbal surrogates for facial behavior,” to the extent that it can even convey sarcasm. Paired text and emojis with differing connotations can express sarcasm. For example, a sad message with a happy emoji can illustrate denial or annoyance with a situation.

However, conversation is about much more than the words spoken. Cues within the human voice – intonation, volume and stress – as well as body language all contribute to language communication and interpretation.

Because emojis show emotion and action, they artificially emulate some of those real-life social cues. Emojis make virtual interaction an even more convincingly perfect replacement for in-person conversation.

Another study found that 46 percent of the surveyed population were more likely to communicate with friends and family via technology than face-to-face.

After all, digital communication allows message revision, flexible response time and minimal commitment. It is far more convenient to text someone in the midst of multitasking than to have a sit-down conversation and give that person undivided attention.

Even the food industry, including Domino’s and Fooji, has adopted ways for people to order with emojis – convenient and alluringly efficient.

It can be so tempting to rely heavily on emojis. It is much easier to scroll through and select preset images than to verbally articulate a message.

Although the world operates in a digital age, human brains develop through organic stimulus.

The brain relays information using neurotransmitters whose pathways grow when stimulated. Psychologists have found that neural pathways develop differently in reaction to real-life and online experiences. Children with excessive screen time grow to be less empathetic.

Emojis endanger authentic, real-life conversation that is necessary to growing empathetic thought patterns and building deep interpersonal relationships. Emojis, no matter how descriptive or diverse, cannot replace in-person interaction. They can operate as a mask that we hide behind when we can’t find the words to express ourselves, but this ultimately does us a disservice in real-life communication.

In the midst of a fast-paced, digital-based society, find time to put down the keyboard and pick up a friend.