While emojis might be the most simplified means of expression since the advent of “LOL,” studies indicate that they actually enhance certain aspects of nonverbal communication.
Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, emojis are specifically designed to communicate the nonverbal cues we often take for granted in face-to-face interactions. By capping off texts with a smiley face, a wink, or a devilish grin, we equip our messages with the context and character that may otherwise have been left to inference.
“Emojis are becoming a valid and near-universal method of expression in all languages,” Instagram representatives wrote on the service’s Engineering Blog.
In May 2015, Instagram released a set of statistics that showed that almost half of all texts on its worldwide service contained at least one emoji.
This emphasizes a logical but easily overlooked aspect of the emoticon: While words are limited by language and culture, emoticons defy such barriers by boiling expression down to its most basic representation.
If emojis can lead to an enhanced level of communication, might they also lead to an enhanced level of intimacy? What, if anything, might our emoji usage say about our love lives?
According to a study led by biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher for Match.com, people who use more emojis in text messages tend to have more active sex lives.
The study polled 5,675 singles and revealed that 54% of emoji users had sex in 2014, while 31% of singles did not, implying that a direct correlation exists between our sex lives and our text lives.
“It’s notoriously difficult to read tone in texts and emails, but emojis can bridge the gap,” Dr. Fisher explained. “[Emoji users] want to give their texts more personality. Here we have a new technology (texting) that absolutely jeopardizes your ability to express your emotion. There is no more subtle inflection of the voice, and so we have created another way to express emotions and that is the emoji.”
While Dr. Fisher’s point certainly rings true in the realm of interpersonal communication, particularly with regards to romance, she inadvertently highlights another intriguing implication of the emoji: It inherently creates a level of familiarity and expression that might otherwise be lacking in other aspects of daily life.
Take, for instance, online business transactions, which traditionally have been highly impersonal.
David Jinks, head of Public Relations for UK-based courier service ParcelHero, recently implemented emojis into the company’s online communication and transactions with customers, a technique which he has found creates a certain level of warmth and light-heartedness in what is generally viewed as an incredibly detached mode of business.
Jinks spoke with BTR about the role that emojis play in customer outreach.
“It’s all about speaking the language of the customers,” he says. “It’s just the way people are communicating these days. It’s up to retailers to reflect that a bit more. And it’s something which, I think, smaller companies are better able to do at the moment than larger and more established companies.”
In discussing the ways in which emojis have been utilized to date, Jinks points to companies like Domino’s, who recently launched a campaign that allows users to order a pizza by sending a pizza emoji to a particular Twitter account.
Jinks notes that, while we’re still a ways off from being able to make advanced purchases by texting out a picture, the emoji is most certainly here to stay and its prevalence in business and day-to-day life is only becoming more apparent.
Either way, what began as a simple novelty has now developed into the world’s fastest-growing language, according to Professor Vyv Evans of Bangor University, who has studied the subject extensively. From our business dealings, to our love lives, emojis represent an evolution in human communication that has proved to be as novel as it is versatile.
Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.