Unicode Consortium, inventors of the ubiquitous emoji, have announced the most popular one of late: the crying with laughter face. Runners up: the single heart and the happy face with hearts in its eyes. That’s great news, right? It means love and laughter prevail over expletives and a pile of poop (which, let’s face it, sometimes better illustrate our day.)
Why have emojis become so popular? With the increasing trend of communication by text, tonality, and therefore nuance, is lost. At first, before these adorable little pictures were available, we attempted to clarify our intentions with excessive punctuation (!!!!) and initialisms like LOL. Now that we have emojis, however, the old adage holds true—a picture is worth a thousand words, and LOL just doesn’t evoke the same emotion (root of emoji) that these expressive pictures do.
But as with words, punctuation, or anything else related to linguistics, is overblowing the emotive expression vis a vis the circumstance sucking meaning from the sentiment? And is such frequent use devaluing a true emotion, like crying laughing, that is special because it happens so rarely?
In conversation, we often hear words like “amazing, awesome, and phenomenal.” But how often do the circumstances actually merit these descriptors? Overuse deteriorates their meaning to the mundane, leaving us speechless when we want to underscore a truly extraordinary experience.
Similarly, how often do you actually laugh yourself to tears? Is a simple smiley face a more appropriate response? And in a world of overstated communication, would the smiley face be received as appropriate, as it should be, or as an aloof and underwhelmed response?