Do emojis have an impact on us and the understanding of what is written?

Emojis - you may love them, hate them or feel indifferent, the fact is that people around you are using them a lot, even if you don't. How we use them in communication, in the end - matters. Some emojis may feel inappropriate and people may be offended by them, and some of them are considered funny wherever you are.

How we ended up here? Well, I guess we live in an endless cycle - we were trying to express ourselves with drawings and sketches ages before we have invented written word, and we are getting back to the roots, those primal instincts - to express ourselves with sketches and drawings, but in a new, digital, sense, with emojis...

A brief history

We all remember emoticons, at least some of us do. In the chatrooms during the 90s you could find vast amount of them - :-), :-/, ;-)... I remember using shortened emoticons like :), ;), and :/ because, some time ago you hadn't had the internet all around you, and you needed to communicate with SMS, which you didn't get for free, and with only 160 characters (with Serbian Cyrillic and Latin letters even less) you needed to be brief, and often send some wink, a smile or a sad face...

First emojis were created in Japan (as well as many other interesting things including manga, anime, origami...), in 1999 by artist Shigetaka Kurita. He worked for DOCOMO, Japan's mobile carrier, and he designed a new way to send information, with picture characters, which is actually the meaning of the word emoji. It comes from Japanese (of course), e meaning picture and moji meaning character.

They quickly became popular in Japan, and during the mid 2000s they started to get popular in the rest of the world. In 2007 a team from Google decided to lead the petition for emojis to be recognized by Unicode (sort of like UN for text standards across computers). In 2010, Unicode recognized emojis, which made them accessible everywhere. Literally everywhere!

Fast forward to 2015, the 😂 emoji was recognized as the word of the year by Oxford's dictionary. Fun fact - the same year the word lumbersexual was also recognized by Oxford's dictionary (yay hipsters!). Two or three years ago emojis were even considered as characters on license plates in Queensland, Australia and allowed in Vermont, US.

But, you haven't heard all. There is even an emoji translator. Even though it maybe sounds funny, following part of this blogpost shows that we may actually need them.

(Miss)understanding of emojis

The emojis were doubted as the world's first truly universal form of communication, but, as I dug deeper in the story about them, I found out that some of them have different meaning in different cultures. It's not that simple as you might think. For example - 👍 emoji is considered in the West as the sign of approval, but it has offensive and vulgar connotation in Greece and the Middle East. In China, 👼 emoji is used as the sign of death, and is considered threatening, and 👏 emoji is the symbol of making love.

In 2018, there was also a case in Israel where after viewing an apartment, future tenants sent celebratory emojis to the landlord, which made the landlord take down the property from the market. Later they backed down from renting the place, for which landlord sued them. A judge later ruled that the emojis were themselves enough to imply their intent to rent, and fined the tenants with around 2000 USD fine, or in other words - 4 months rent in some decent apartment in Belgrade (not sure about Isreal though).


I like emojis and use them a lot, both on and off work. My favorite ones are 😅 and 😉. Why, I'm not really sure, but I guess there is a personality test that tells you what kind of person you are, based on emojis you like. If there isn't one, there should be.

When communicating with people that don't use them, I opt out of using them as well, because I don't want to send something that others may find offensive. However, when communicating with people that use emojis, but they are not using them in that one conversation, I always get a bit worried, and ask them if everything is okay, because I've not seen the emojis... I guess this happens to all the people who like and use emojis, right?

To return to the question from the title - Do emojis have an impact on us and the understanding of what is written? In short - yes. Whether you are for, meh or against emojis, use them wisely, sometimes they are appropriate, and sometimes not. And how to know that? You need to figure that out by yourself.

In the end, it isn't about the emoji you've added, but what you wrote with words.[1]

To learn more

Disclaimer - a lot of sources came from Wired magazine


  1. I heard this quote during some talk I've attended, I noted it down, but I can't remember the source. I wanted to finish with it, because I find it as an appropriate end of this post. ↩︎