You get a text message. No words. Staring back at you is a small American flag, a red balloon and a cheeseburger.
You just got hit with emojis.
Forget text. These visual representations of emotions are beginning to take hold of America, first in Asia and now in our app stores, according to Parmy Olson of Forbes.com, where a new all-emoji app is on the way.
But where do they come from?
That's what Fast Company Design’s John Brownlee asked in an article this week on the origins of emojis. They’re actually brought to you by the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization of technology companies that create the standards for modern software and cellular products, Fast Company wrote.
But it was only recently that Unicode included emojis into its repertoire. Emojis have been around for many years. They were actually a part of Japanese culture “when they debuted as a cute software feature on local phones. Pretty soon, millions of Japanese phones across multiple carriers came with huge emoji libraries pre-installed,” Brownlee wrote.
It was only in 2010 that emojis became a part of the Unicode Standard with version 6.0 and started popping up more regularly in America, Brownlee wrote. Since then, the images have gone viral and have in many ways replaced traditional text messages.
And new ones are on their way with the 250 set to hit phones this month. People all over are advocating for the creation of new types of emojis, too. Creating one, and getting it popular, is actually a relatively simple process, Browlee wrote.
“First, you've got to use it yourself,” he wrote. “Then, you've got to get other people using it. And finally, you have to prove to experts that the alphabet has a hole in it without it.”
So what kind of emoji would you want to create?
Possibly something positive — people like that kind of thing.
The Huffington Post reported back in June that emoticons — like your traditional “:)” smiley face, which is different than an emoji — can actually make you happier and get you some new friends. This is based on research by Simo Tchokni and others, who all found there are plenty of pluses to putting in a positive pictorial emotion.
“Using (the emoticon created by typing) ‘:-)’ can win over friends, make you likable and even boost your mood,” HuffPost’s Bianca Bosker wrote. “A strategic ‘:-)’ can also take the edge off, which may help bypass the ‘reading rage’ that can erupt over a poorly phrased email.”
But some emojis have been known to create controversy — like the emoji of a person praying, or is it high-fiving? And, one of the 250 new emojis due out in July has especially sparked up conversations about the negative side of these type of emojis and emoticons alike — a middle finger.
This new emoji could spark a problem on the Internet. Sure, it might be good to ward off some Internet trolls. But, then again, it could come back to bite users, writes Shruti Dhapola of First Post.
“If someone is abusing you on Twitter … or calling you a fool, you can whip out a quick response but it might just come flying back on your timeline as well, multiplied manifold, a new troll missile.”
Regardless of the controversy, emojis are a natural thing for people, according to Takehiro Ariga, a Japanese magazine editor, who spoke to NPR about the emojis that hit Japan in the late 1990s.
“It is very natural,” he said, “that people want to communicate in other ways other than normal character.”