A while ago, I thought I’d write a letter to a friend. A traditional letter, written by hand. As soon as I finished the second sentence, I felt the immediate need to use an emoji: I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to convey that I was being ironic without one of those yellow faces. Then, I asked myself: Can we communicate without using emojis? Can we express ourselves without resorting to them?
Reading the Internet, I found opinions of all kinds. For instance, that emojis don’t have the efficiency to replace the written word; they generate confusion because they are not interpreted the same way throughout the world; they impoverish language; they enrich it; and that they help us replace non-verbal language. This last idea is what I thought made more sense.
When we speak, we not only use words (verbal communication), we also give them an intonation (vocal communication) and we accompany them with gestures (non-verbal communication). Nonverbal communication and vocal communication help us convey our feelings to the listener: it is not the same to say something with a smile than with tears in your eyes.
Many times, the written word is not enough to accurately convey what we want, for example, that we are being ironic or making a joke. But the yellow faces came to save us: they are the ones that allow us to express everything that it’s not put into words. They allow us to make our text much more human, and to better deliver feelings and emotions.
It is true that emojis cannot replace the written word completely, but they can reinforce it and help us transmit what cannot be expressed by mere letters. In any case, I don’t think they came to impoverish language, but rather enrich it and make it more human, the same way that gestures or intonation reinforce our verbal conversations.
Admittedly, it’s true that sometimes they can generate confusion. As we said a while ago, emojis do not look the same on all devices, and depending on the age or place of residence, people can interpret the same emoji in different ways. But the same can be said about gestures, which are not universal either.
We do not know what will happen in the future, but for now, emojis are here to stay and become almost essential. Yes, we can communicate without using them; but whenever we include them, our interactions will be more fluid, emotional and human.