As the world continues to evolve, our dependence on technology and communication is prominent now more than ever. Digital communication makes our lives so accessible that today in the 21st Century, one cannot possibly imagine a life without the luxuries and comfort of communicating to anyone whenever, wherever.
The fundamental idea of digital communication is to create a channel for multiple people who might want to communicate with each other without any hassle. Innovations and digital media often go hand in hand. In today’s times, our heavy reliance on technological innovations has led to various new and exciting innovations such as virtual reality, surround sound, and much more. These inventions aim to keep up with customer demand and make digital communication more customized, secure, and in general, easy to use. One such innovation in the world of digital communication was emojis or emoticons. Made famous back in the late 2000s, emojis became a universally understood symbol used to convey sentiment without having to phrase it. Emojis have become a way to capture an individual’s emotions and gather a sense of their well-being. Emojis can help people express their sadness, anger, excitement, and almost all other feelings that we have – usually in an informal setting. They also help in reducing ambiguity and get clarity with regard to the message.
Emojis do fill a significant gap in our keyboards. With the introduction of skin tones, many people saw it as a step forward in the right direction, especially people of color. Emojis also help represent disabled people – we have emojis of people in wheelchairs or with hearing aids, and these often provide a sense of solidarity and can become a much more accessible form of communication than verbal dialogue and act as an actual alternative for someone who is disabled to communicate and become a part of a larger community.
However, it is crucial to understand that humans are emotionally driven beings, and evaluating one’s emotions is challenging. The emotional state is brutal to verbalize, mainly when one has been through something traumatic or challenging to explain. Still, we heavily rely on a mix of emojis to understand what we’re feeling or going through. But these “emotions” often get lost in translation. Our emotional intelligence seems to be getting worse, not better, with the rise of technology.
What do we do when a loved one passes away? Does a crying emoji, in that case, represent whatever we’re feeling at that time? Or if you get your dream job. Does an emoji representing you smiling your teeth out capture the actual representation of your happiness? What do we do when someone we love is going through a challenging phase? Do we try to empathize with them or choose an appropriate emoji to send to them? Or if a friend’s pet dies – do we repeat the same consoling message 20 others have already posted, or do we put up a crying emoji and move on?
The fact is that emotions are not as basic as we take them to be. They are complex. Anxiety, or depression, for example, are incredibly complicated emotions that people feel regularly. Our feelings cannot be captured through visual representation of our actual selves, and mechanical exclamations like emojis of our genuine feelings can lead to a relatively confused interpretation. This is perhaps why emojis today aren’t being used as effectively as they once were. To kids and young adults, they seem particularly attractive, but perhaps not to someone who is grieving or in emotional distress. Recent studies show that the use of sarcastic emojis or anger (which, by the way, is the most viral emotion on social media) suppresses meaningful debate and takes the conversation into a downward spiral. Even though emojis are a convenient option provided to us in the hope of making someone understand our emotional state, sometimes the reality may lie beyond these faces of our emojis. We often distance ourselves from our true feelings, stifling them and making sure everyone online knows how “chill” our lives are.
We, as a generation, have spent more time with emojis than the ones recently introduced to them. Emojis started gaining momentum when social media apps like Instagram and WhatsApp were beginning to gain momentum, but GenZ is leaving it behind due to its unpopularity. The reason? Perhaps a hundred cake emojis next to a happy birthday put them off.
Human beings would instead sort out our reactions to particular situations than understanding what people we care about. We tend to keep things “light and breezy,” – so what seems like an available set of emotional options is instead just a set of available dynamic coping mechanisms.
Going for a proper consoling message rather than a sad reaction can go leaps and bounds in helping someone cope with their problems. Perhaps taking a more thoughtful approach in dealing with emotions can make things much easier for the recipient. Technology is always going to take off and evolve; we’ve come from a simple “:)” to bitmojis – but keeping in touch with emotions, ours, and others can be a great start.
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