The emoji is such a simple thing, but its meaning and purpose has shifted significantly in the era of remote working and lockdown.
Originating from Japan, emojis became increasingly popular worldwide from 2010 and have been a part of our everyday lives ever since. More than 700M emojis are used in Facebook posts every day and Over 900M emojis are sent every day without text on Facebook Messenger as some use emojis as a secret language! On that note, only 7% of people use 🍑 to indicate the fruit 😂
But what does the emoji really mean today? Having spent much of our lives in isolation away from our friends, family and colleagues, are we now using emojis in a different way? We certainly think so. Have you noticed you receive more and more emails with a smiley face at the end of them recently?
Given our increased reliance on digital communications, it’s no wonder people are using emojis to express how they are feeling in emails, instant messages and social media posts. Significantly, emoji use has proliferated in professional as well as personal communications.
The emoji’s primary function has always been to fill in emotional cues that would otherwise be missing from typed conversation, but seeing the shift from personal to professional use in the last year or so suggests that the emoji is fulfilling a much more important role now than ever before.
Certainly in work scenarios, especially when busy, it can be all too easy for that email to sound just a little too direct or even a little too abrupt, so rounding things off with a thumbs up or smiley face has become common practice to end on a more encouraging tone. Given that so many of us haven’t been able to see our colleagues properly whilst working from home, an emoji on the end of an email might just make someone’s day. In many ways, emojis are the new office banter and water cooler chatter.
But on the flip side, we are also using emojis to communicate more difficult emotions. Sadness, fear, heartbreak and uncertainty were previously emotions reserved for intimate, face-to-face conversations, largely because it can be difficult to articulate these feelings in the written word. With digital communication, emojis can fulfil that need, conveying a feeling far more visually.
Usage of the following emojis has soared over the past 12 months:
😷 🤢 🤮 🤧 🤒
Language doesn’t stand still: word choices and even some grammatical rules evolve over time. Given how useful emojis have proven during times of change and isolation, the normalisation of their use in a professional context is something that is likely to endure beyond the pandemic.