What is an emoji? We have all, at some point in time, asked this question, be it when you received your first phone or when you downloaded MSN messenger during the turn of the millennium on your desktop PC. Originally known as the small images of animated faces you could attach to any message or text to convey emotion; emojis have evolved greatly over the last decade since their introduction to mainstream media. With high quality graphics and thousands of the small animations to choose from (no longer exclusive to pictorial facial expressions), emojis are, in their own right, a new technological language.
Although previously known as ’emoticons’, with low quality graphics, the definition of what an emoji/emoticon is, and reasons for its use has not changed. According to Google the definition is as follows,  an emoticon is “a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication.” The reason for the name ’emoticon’ derives from this definition as it is  a combination of the words emotion and icon. The creator of the emoticon, Scott Fahlman was the first person to ever produce the smiley face :-).  Fahlman shared the first emoticon on an online message board back in 1982 where he proposed that the smiley face, ‘J’ be used to signal what posts were meant as jokes. Similarly he recommended that the frowning face, ‘L’ be sued to signal posts of a more serious nature. Despite the casual manner in which Fahlman’s suggestion of using small icons was made, it was the beginning of a modern electronic revolution.
This combination of different computer characters to convey emotions in online communication has had a great impact on the modern world, especially that of social media. These days all forms of instant messaging, SMS and posts on social media has become more humanized and easy to understand as people can understand the mood of a message or post with the accompanying emojis. Or instance, if a college Twitter user had tweeted, “Finally finished my assignment J”, it is safe to assume that they are happy with their completed work and expect a good result. On the other hand if the same college student had tweeted, “Finally finished my assignment L”, we get an entirely different idea of how their work may have went, and presume that they may expect a poor result from their work. Although the emojis do not tell the whole story in either scenario about how their assignment went, we get a basic understanding how the author of the tweet felt. Whereas if no emojis were used in the tweet, for example, “Finally finished my assignment”, then the author of the tweet seems indifferent about what they have said and so we as an audience are not engaged with the tweet. Especially with the social media site twitter, we are very limited in what we can say in a single tweet due to the 140 character limit. I believe that it is this limit on how much one can say that has increased the popularity of emojis in recent years. As the saying goes, “a picture speaks a thousand words” and it is particularly true in this case.
Since the original smiley was created, there has been such a development in the emojis that there is a lot more of a range of small little pictures to add to a particular message or post. For example, in any emojis bar on your computer or mobile device you will find different groups of emojis. These groups range from food, the flags of the world and animals to your broad range of faces and all emojis representing a human action. As of last year, Apple (followed by most android companies) has added different skin colours that you can choose from when picking out any of the human emojis. Although this act of racial inclusion had mixed reactions from different people when it first came out, it still goes to show that the number and variety of emojis are not about to stop growing at any point in the near future.