Fastest growing language: the rise of the emoji ;)
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Type in "emojis are..." into the Google search engine, and you will find in its top results that they have been called a "cancer", they are "bad", "annoying" and "cringe", and emojis are, allegedly, "for idiots".
Harsh words, indeed. Another search result hits it on its head: Emojis are forms of communication. They may be relatively young, but the smileys and the frownys, the winky faces and the poo (charming) are part of a new and popular language.
The emoji is the fastest growing language in the UK, and it is evolving faster than ancient forms of communication, such as hieroglyphics.
Stupid or annoying, it is how young people community with 72 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds finding it easier to express their feelings with an emoji than the written language, a survey by TalkTalk Mobile found.
The original emojis were designed by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999 for Japanese mobile phones. They initially numbered 176 designs before rising to the over 1,800 emojis used by over 90 per cent of the population today.
According to Wired, one-third of people online use emoji every day, and they are becoming so popular that they're killing off netspeak. "The more we use 😂," they write, "the less we use LOL and OMG."
On Instagram, for instance, nearly half of the posts contain emoji. This is a trend that started in 2011 when iOS added an emoji keyboard - Android followed suit two years later. The photo-sharing app is now adding personalised emoji shortcuts for comments, placing your most used emoji above your keyboard.
Emojis are considered a font or a language, therefore anyone can use them for any purpose without worrying about copyright - as long as they don't directly copy pre-existing ones.
Although young people struggle to communicate their feelings with emojis, a study, published in Trends in Cognitive Science, found that their users tend to be nicer people.
The study found those who use emojis regularly are more empathetic, more approachable and socially receptive.
One of the authors, Linda Kaye, a cyberpsychologist at Edge Hill University, likened the use of emojis to facial expressions and gestures.
She said: "It says something about how we're understanding each other and how we're likely to interact with people. We mostly use emojis like gestures, as a way of enhancing emotional expressions.
"There are a lot of idiosyncrasies in how we gesture, and emojis are similar to that, especially because of the discrepancies as to how and why we use them."
Whether you find emojis annoying (angry face) or the best way to express feelings (smiley), it is one of the fastest growing languages. If you are struggling for a way to reply to someone, there's probably an emoji for that. Or you could talk to them in person. ;)