Emoji: Messaging What You Are Feelings – Symbol by Symbol


What are Emoji?

Emoji are Japanese expressions or symbols that are literally meaning “picture” (e) and “letter” (moji). They are ideograms used in electronic messaging and on webpages. You find many emoji for Japanese food (sushi, mochi balls, noodles etc.), animals (dog, monkey, cat, mouse, frog etc.) and smileys (happy, sad, crying, heart-eyed faces etc.).

Emoji date back to 1995 when people were still using pagers instead of smartphones, originally only available in Japan.
The first emoji, a heart, was spreading quickly among Japanese teenagers allowing them to express an emotion that was hard to express in a text.

Few years later emoji was also know in the US but not really used until 2011, when Apple included the symbols in iOS 5 reaching not only the American teenagers but also adults.

In the last decade emoji characters have been incorporated into Unicode allowing them to be used elsewhere than only in Japan.
Today smartphones such as the Windows Phone 7, the iPhone and some Android powered phones allow access to the symbols without the need of a Japanese operator. Emoji is also used in e-mailing such as Gmail and in social networks.

Cultural Differences of Emoji Use

Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at UCI, who studied the use of digital media in Asia and the US recently stated: “Now, as emoji are seeing more adoption in the U.S., you’re seeing a form of communication being used that was clearly developed and marketed to a different demographic.”

Recently, American companies including Facebook have integrated emoji into their application. One interesting finding that Facebook’s emoji use revealed was that the billions of users around the world not only speak many different languages but also use emoji differently.
In Asian cultures the emotions are expressed through context such as an emoji face in a sunny environment representing happiness while an emoji face in dark clouds may express that somebody is sad or having a bad day.
In the US instead, faces and facial expressions are connected to an emotion such a big smile in the face expression joy and a tear in the eye sadness.

Whether in text messages, through plug-ins in WordPress, used on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks or even part of the social marketing, emoji becomes ever more a way in which we communicate feelings in a message without using words.

How are you feeling today?


One thought on “Emoji: Messaging What You Are Feelings – Symbol by Symbol

  1. Hi Cornelia,

    Just wanted to thankyou for inspiring us in creating a new app which gamifies emoji characters.  We created this app after reading your article.

    Emojis are really an exciting form of communication, and a messaging tool for Generation Y. Our aim was to extend this into a more engaging product which we all can use.

    The app we have created is a combination of sending emojis to your friends and playing an emoji related game at the same time.

    We released the app last week on Google Play and is totally free.


    Would you be interested in covering it?

    Thanks once again for inspiring us and keep up the awesome articles.

    Kind regards,

    Ankit Talwar
    Appsmania.co Co-Founder

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