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Generation emoji: Here to stay or just a fad?

26 Apr 16

Article by Jay Wilson, Gartner research analyst

My third grader hosted a sleepover party the other night. She and her friends pulled out all the stops, playing with American Girl Dolls, weaving bracelets, playing Minecraft.

And of course, they conducted an emoji wedding.

Yes, a wedding ceremony for two emojis. More specifically, two emoji pillows. Yes, they make emoji pillows now. Not only were there two emoji pillows getting married, but there were about a dozen mini emoji pillows in attendance. One was a ring bearer, one was the best man, you get the picture.

In case you don’t, here’s an actual picture:

How is it that a bunch of 9 year olds, none of whom have their own phones or their own social media accounts, are fascinated with emoji? What’s driving the obsession from a group of kids that aren’t (yet) tweeting, texting, snapping, or Instagramming?

I decided to ask. What do you girls love so much about emoji?

“When I don’t know the words for how I feel, I can just draw an emoji.”

“I tell people I speak three languages – English, Portugese, and emoji.”

“They’re just awesome.”

“They’re cute!”

“I use my mom’s phone and spam her friends with emoji!”

This last one I know all too well.  Here’s a typical text exchange with my daughter when she’s hijacked her mom’s phone:

As you can see, I’ve started to incorporate some emoji myself. But I have to be honest – I’m not a big fan. Yes, I know marketers have been falling over themselves trying to emoji-fy their communications, but I hope they’re just a fad - especially the stuffed pillow variety.

My daughter can type. She can spell. She’s a good writer with a vivid imagination. But her immediate default right now is to send an endless string of nonsensical smiley faces in response to any question. Is this the end of the written word as we know it? My father, a longtime journalist and editor, is surely rolling in his grave.  Somewhere, David Ogilvy cries.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. Perhaps I’m just getting old. But consider this: The evolution of written communications has come full circle. Humans started off scratching crude drawings on cave walls. We eventually developed hieroglyphs. The written word bloomed in the Magna Carta, the works of Shakespeare, the Letters from a Birmingham Jail.

Then came email, with its lazy writing, especially on Blackberries. The 140 character tweet. The ROFL’s and BRB’s of text and instant messaging.

And now this, the emoji. We’re back to the caves, and we can’t even be bothered to put together letters to form words anymore.

Article by Jay Wilson, Gartner research analyst

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