From :-) to 😊 and Beyond

Expressing emotion through just words can be difficult task, especially when it comes to the digital age we live in. How do you express joy or sadness and all other emotions when attempting to leave a comment, text someone or write a status?

As text messaging and the internet became widespread in the 80s and 90s the intent to express emotion through cyber-space started to emerge. Emoticons, which was short for “emotion icon” became increasingly more popular. Professor Dr. Scott Fahlman created the first emoticon in 1982, the happy smiley: :-). Some of these other emoticons that were commonly used to express emotions were: :/, :D, xD, )-:, ;-). 

I find it fascinating that humans are using digital tools to create more of a human connection through technology. Emoticons have evolved into what we now know as emoji’s; however, emoji’s are much more closely connected to human interaction. The original emoticons were created over type text and emoji’s have much more depth and hundreds of more options to express yourself. Emoji’s are more than just facial expressions with options like types of food, animals, nature, different activities, travel/transportation, objects, symbols and flags. 

Screenshot from own personal device

As times change so do emojis. Take for example back in 2016 when Apple changed the original gun emoji to a squirt gun and other vendors like Google and Samsung followed suit. New updates to emoji’s are aimed to match its array of users, like in 2015 when the emoji for sam-sex couples was introduced.

Earlier this week the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit that oversees emojis and administers standards for text on the web, announced new emoji’s that are centered on inclusivity. Some of the new emoji’s include interracial couples, emoji’s with disabilities and a emoji that is signing. 

Screenshot from own personal device

This New York Times article discusses that while Unicode Consortium sets standards for emoji’s to translate over the internet, it is then up to large technology companies like Apple and Google to incorporate the code into its operating systems. Apple and Google have both stated early this week that it intends to release updates with more diversity and inclusiveness. A representative for Apple expressed excitement for accessibility emojis and that it would “foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of a disability.” 

1 in 5 people in the US have a disability, which means that large tech companies should use its power to give users the ability to express their identity freely. Companies like Apple and Google brand themselves focusing on diversity and inclusion, which means that it should be incorporated into its code of emoji’s as well. 

Emoji’s are a powerful tool for not only communication, but self-expression and a way to represent personal experiences. New updates with emoji’s are constantly rolling out. Tech companies have the opportunity to dedicate diverse emoji’s to match its user base. 

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