Emojis: Where Did They Come From And Why Is Everyone Using Them

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Since emojis first appeared on our keyboards in 2011; an upgrade from emoticons where we had to use keyboard commands like parenthesis, colon, the letter p, etc. to transmit emotions such as : – ) (happy) , : – ( (sad) , or the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (shrug), they have captured our imagination and visual sense in becoming the very fabric of how we talk in a digital space.

Thanks to emojis today, we have over 58 smiley faces of different expressions, including side eye, judging, sarcasm, embarrassed, and likes of animals, aliens, ghosts, food, inclusive humans, professions, and some that are still undecipherable.

Why do we use emojis?

Emojis embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate. We have embraced them in our texts, in our snaps, in our DMs… even uncles and aunties in their Good Morning WhatsApp messages have embraced 🌸 and 🙏🏽.

The influx of emojis in our lives has become integral to the way we communicate. It’s an emotional accessory to add to an otherwise passive text. For instance, “I understand” reads as indifferent, whereas, “I understand 💛 ” reads as compassionate.

They have spawned a thriving multi-faceted economy, which extends beyond the digital sphere.

There are emoji merchandise. Kim Kardashian threw her daughter North a 💩 emoji themed birthday party.

The Emoji Movie (2007) had a cast of characters that were just emojis.

On Twitter, automated emojis appear alongside use of specific hashtags. The #Loki features the God of Mischief in his emoji avatar. Nearly 50% of captions and comments on Instagram include at least one emoji, and individual Snaps or Stories on Snapchat often feature them in captions.

You just can’t escape them.

But, where did emojis come from? And, more importantly, am I using them correctly?

Emojis were first created in Japan for a very specific purpose: to say more with less text. The word emoji comes from the Japanese 絵 (“e,” picture), 文 (“mo,” write) and 字 (“ji,” character).

In 1999, Japanese telecom giant NTT DoCoMo was developing a nascent mobile internet system, which offered email service but, it came with a 250 character limit. So, Shigetaka Kurita created certain emojis to replace texts and save on the character limit. His designs were inspired by kanji and manga art.

He created 176 emojis — sun, cloud, rain, snow, among others, and now, there are over 3,000 emojis to choose from!

But, are you using them correctly though? 

Here are some of the emojis I have used incorrectly while texting

1. 🙆🏻‍ – I was using it to say, “OMG” turns out, it is really an emoji for ‘okay’

2. 🙇🏻‍ – I was using it to say, “I am so done with the day”. What it really is – bowing down in respect

3. 💁🏽‍ – I was using it to throw sass, turns out she is the lady at the Help Desk asking if I need help. (Yes please! How do I use emojis correctly?)

4. 💫 – I was using it to celebrate a victory, turns out it means, “feeling dizzy”

5. ✌🏽 – Not the peace sign I thought I was texting to end an argument, but rather a victory sign.

6. 😊 – I was using this as a smiley face, turns out it’s an embarrassed face. This explains the many misunderstandings… 😞

Photographs: Instagram, Pinterest

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