How Much Influence Do Emojis Have?
- Charlotte Forrester
With the news that Russian officials are considering banning 'gay emojis' Charlotte looks into the power of emojis in modern culture and language
The millennial generation have grown up becoming increasingly reliant on technology, especially social media as a form of communication. One particular aspect that has been embraced is the emoji (a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication.)
Young people have seen emojis grow from simple smiley emoticons in MSN messages to entire tweets being composed of 140 characters of these tiny cartoon pictures. It has become a significant part of the 21st century with people being able to express themselves and their thoughts. In fact, Global Language Monitor revealed the heart emoji as the Word of the Year last year - the first time an emoji topped the list.
The emoji is usually viewed as a novelty in digital communication, however they’ve proved to have further capabilities in our lives. In America, you can now tweet the Domino’s Twitter account with a pizza emoji (after you register for an Easy Order account) and a pizza will be delivered to your address!
Emojis have also been cropping up in political discussions. Russia is currently not deemed as a safe open space for members of the LGBTQ community as there is a law banning the ‘promotion of non-traditional sexual relations.’ This means that any promotion of non-heterosexual behaviour is prohibited. This law has led to conversations in the Russian government about same sex couple emojis.
iPhone users can send emojis of same-sex relationships and parents to one another, which Russian officials have said encourage ‘untraditional sexual relations among minors’ and ‘harm their health and development.’ But can emojis really affect someone’s sexuality? Do emojis have this much influence over young people?
The notion that emojis could hold this much power can seem absurd- especially considering that they occupy such a small fraction of what we see on the Internet. However, when Apple released the iOS 8.3 software update earlier this year, one of its new features included a more diverse emoji keyboard fitted with added same-sex couples as well as the ability to have varying skin tones on a large proportion of the emojis.
People were overjoyed at this improved representation on our phone screens, as Apple had previously been critiqued greatly for many of the emojis being white (or yellow) apart from if a racial stereotype was being portrayed. How come Apple couldn’t allow us to share emojis of different races but we could send a vast range of different fruit and veg?
Emojis should not be at the forefront of the world’s political problems however maybe we shouldn’t dismiss their place in modern culture either. Hieroglyphics took hundreds of years to develop as a visual language and are viewed as a key part of ancient history . Millions of them are being shared amongst young people across the globe everyday so maybe they do have a greater impact on our society than we perhaps realise.