The Emoji Chaos

Ramy Elbasty
13 min readJul 19, 2019

Have you ever received a message and wondered why you are seeing a couple of awkward boxes or out-of-context question mark symbols? You probably have, and possibly more often that you can even recall. However, life is too busy for us to worry about such trivialities, and we would simply just ignore them. But what if I tell you that maybe we need to worry about them a little more!

Before I get to explaining why we sometimes receive messages with inexplicable characters, you would likely want to know why should you care anyway. Fair enough!

But first, in case you missed it, I’d like to wish you a happy ‘World Emoji Day!’ Yep, there is one for that already, celebrated annually on the 17th of July since 2014.

Original illustration by Ramy Elbasty

Once per year, Oxford Dictionaries selects “a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest” over the preceding twelve months. When they announced the ‘Word of The Year 2015’ it turned out to be an emoji rather than an actual word. Ironically enough, it was nothing other than the renowned laughing-crying face itself, officially known as the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’. On their website, Oxford Dictionaries explained that this particular emoji “was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015”. They also highlighted that according to statistics, the usage of the word ‘emoji’ has “more than tripled in 2015”, despite being around since 1997.

I remember both the sarcasm and astonishment that announcement had sparked back then. It brought about a wave of posts, tweets, and memes either documenting or making fun of the fact that we have lived long enough to see a smiley face slipping into our dictionaries. I believe that was a major milestone where many people perhaps realized that modern human linguistics had already evolved beyond alphabets.

In fact, that was not the first time an emoji received a special treatment. In 2014, Global Language Monitor (GLM) which is a Texan-based company concerned with tracking and analyzing trends in language usage worldwide, announced the heart emoji symbolizing ‘love’ as the ‘Top Word of 2014 for Global English’.

What I’m trying to say here is that emoji are no longer just those fun little smiley faces as we used to know them in the near past. They have evolved into a digital language…