January 29, 2020

The Power of Emojis: Why We Use Them and What They Tell About Us

Winking eyes, face with tears of joy, smiley faces are only a few among the sea of emojis (see this emoji guide here) that you often see on text messages and social media posts. They are used to inject emotions into a plain sentence, or they can be the “sentence” itself. Emoji seems like a new language that has entered and is now entrenched in our digital social life.

According to a study, emojis help facilitates non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and gestures, across various digital platforms. These small icons convey an easily identified thought or emotion and allow us to add clarity and tone to our everyday digital interaction.

If you want to learn more about the capacity of emojis to change the way we communicate in the digital world and what they tell about us psychologically, read on below.

Emojis vs. Emoticons

People used the terms emoji and emoticon as if they are the same. But the thing is that they are not. Now, let’s split hairs over the difference between emoticons and emojis.

An emoticon is composed of basic text characters or symbols that form into an emotional icon if read sideways. Its origin can be traced back to 1982, when computer scientist Scott Fahlman, instructed his students to use the emoticons smiley face 🙂 and sad face 🙁 to indicate if their posts were meant as jokes or not, respectively.

Emoji, on the other hand, came into being in the late 1990s, when Shigetaka Kurita was hired by Japanese communications company Docomo to program a set of emojis (emoji is a Japanese word, which means picture character) into mobile phones. Then, in 2010, a set of emojis was added to the Unicode Standard for widespread use across digital devices.

Basically, the difference between emoticons and emoji represents technological progress. From simple text characters to picture characters, the way we communicate our thoughts and feelings in the digital domain also took a cultural leap.

Today, emojis not only convey emotions, but they also represent different types of objects, situations, places, beliefs, etc. And, another good thing is that there’s no need for us to tilt our heads to grasp what they mean.

Reasons Why We Use Emojis

For sure, there are different reasons why people use emojis in their everyday digital communication. Here are some reasons that drive folks to use emojis.

People React to an Emoji as to a Human Face

If you send a happy emoji to someone, the reaction the receiver feels is almost the same way he/she would react to a real happy human face. This is proven by a scientific study when participants were instructed to look at a smiley face and a real human face.

The study shows that looking at a human face emoji and real human face triggers the same pattern of activity in the brain. We decode facial expressions in face-to-face communication, and this face perception is made easy when we communicate online with the use of emojis. Perhaps this is the reason behind the effectiveness of emojis in online communication.

smiley, emoticon, anger

Positive Emojis Elevate Your Status on Social Media

Another study shows that the use of positive emojis can make you more popular on social media. The research analyzed 500,000 Facebook posts and over 31 million Tweets by using several metrics, such as Klout score and the number of followers.

The results suggest that there’s a significant correlation between using emojis and social media status. High social media status also has a strong link with using positive emojis.

Emojis Make You Appear More Friendly

If you wish to look more friendly and approachable online, using emojis might help. According to experts, using emojis in your social media posts and text messages makes you appear like a cordial or competent person. Moreover, an interesting side benefit of it is that people reading a message containing emojis can retain the information in it more easily.

Emojis Add Tone and Clarity to Messages

Before emoticons and emojis, digital communication is dull and impersonal. But, with the use of these new forms of language, we can now perceive emotional tone even in text messages and social media posts. It’s now common to see humor, sarcasm, irony, and other emotions being carried over digital devices more easily.

Moreover, the fact that emojis enable us to inject feelings in an otherwise dull and impersonal message, digital communication is also now clearer and more understandable.

Emojis Enable You to Be More Minimalistic

Emoji means “picture character” in Japanese. A perfect term to describe how emoji is worth a thousand words. This particular quality of emojis is beneficial to make digital interaction more minimalistic and convenient.

Whether you use emoji for personal or professional use, this small icon can help you get your message across to the receiver much quicker.

Emojis Humanize Digital Communication

Since emojis convey feelings and emotions more effectively than plain text, it’s safe to say that they can help add a human element to the non-verbal communication we often do online. Emojis mimic human emotions, and emotions are universal.

That’s why an emoji is a perfect tool for our daily digital interaction with our fellow humans. As per the study on the psychological impact of emoji, it shows that people who commonly used emojis were more empathetic and socially receptive. This conclusion tells us about how we interact and understand each other when communicating online.

The Use of Emojis Softens Criticism

If you’re going to share a much-needed criticism or disapproval, using emojis might help in getting the message across without losing a friend or ruining a professional relationship.

A study in workplace communication discovered that employees tend to accept negative feedback from their boss if the critique is punctuated with a smiley face. This insight is essential to strengthening interaction in the workplace.


There is a myriad of reasons why people use emojis in their everyday digital communication. For the most part, emoji usage is seen to improve how we convey our thoughts and feelings online, adding tone and clarity to non-verbal digital interaction.

About the author 

Imran Uddin

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