If you’re like me, then your face may be constantly buried in your phone screen. If you’re not scrolling through your favourite social media, you’re having a field day chatting with friends and family.
Most times, I’m scrolling through a sea of cartoonish yellow faces that describe how I feel because sometimes, words aren’t enough.
In a world where more people work from home and attend events on Zoom, everyone is likely staring at a screen for the better part of the day. How can we not? It’s how we bridge distance barriers and insulate ourselves from a deadly pandemic.
A South African study on changes in how people perceive technology by Alex Emilio Fischer, Tanya Van Tonder, and other researchers reveals 83% of 405 respondents interviewed, worked and communicated more with technology since COVID-19 became a global pandemic.
However, talking to someone physically differs from conversing using a 6.5” device. When communicating face-to-face, what you don’t say is more important than what you say.
Facial cues and body language speak louder than you can imagine. Lydia Ramsey, Professional Speaker and Author, says that “Eye contact is the most obvious way you communicate. When you are looking at the other person, you show interest.”
Ramsey claims studies show that words account for 7% of human communication while body language and tone account for 55% and 38%, respectively.
Unfortunately, nowadays, the way we primarily communicate doesn’t accommodate body language. It’s left to collect dust behind computer screens and beneath our typing thumbs.
Melanie Chan, Senior Lecturer, Media, Communication and Culture at Leeds Beckett University, feels technology has reduced face-to-face conversations.
Interestingly, we not only talk through our devices, we also speak to them. Smartphone assistants have become so intelligent that I sometimes find myself asking Google Assistant to tell me jokes when I’m bored.
While technology has reduced physical communication, it has also helped us keep in touch where actual meetings are impossible. And with the aid of Japanese invention, emojis, we are perhaps retaining some aspects of normal communication.
Emojis: the language of the digital world
When we click on the emoji section of our keyboard, we likely want to convey emotion easily, or words aren’t enough to say what we feel.
Emojis first appeared on Japanese mobile phones in the late ’90s. Since then, they have evolved into a universal digital language. In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries named an emoji Word of the Year. Can you guess which one it was? Reply in the comments.
The popularity of emojis in Japan propelled Google and Apple to have them registered by Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organisation that maintains text standards on computers.
Like the English language, more emojis are being added to the “emoji vocabulary” to express more emotions.
Emojis also have a day set aside to celebrate them. Bizarre? Apparently, World Emoji Day is a big deal.
Created by Jeremy Burge, founder of Emojipedia — a wiki for emojis — the day has two main activities: awards are given to the most popular emojis and new ones are announced.
Interestingly, World Emoji Day is celebrated on July 17 because Apple’s iOS calendar emoji have the same date. Not to worry, you’ll also see the same on your Google keyboard if you’re an Android user.
While emojis might be a universal way of communication digitally, it is still perceived differently by people.