It’s my birthday week and I suspect much cake will be eaten. I will be charming the pants off every buyer who stops by our stand at the London Stationery Show and I will probably be complaining about my back aching. I’ll be complaining a lot. But then it’s my birthday week, so it’s allowed.
And on my actual birthday, I’d like to think that a few birthday cards will pop through the letterbox and land on my doormat. I will, hopefully, receive quite a few texts from friends including the ubiquitous ‘Happy Focking Birthday’ from one particular individual who shall remain nameless.
And then, Facebook will tell a bunch of real-life friends that it is, indeed, the day to celebrate my birth. They will post on my wall with good wishes. Whether it’s a ‘Happy Birthday honey’ or a ‘Hope you have a lovely day’, I think it’s nice to know that people I haven’t seen for a few years have spent 30 seconds of their day thinking how much I’ve aged on my profile picture and writing me a birthday wish. An emoji heart at the end of one of those written actual words of well wishes will also be acceptable. Just to emote a feeling of warmth and sincere love for yours truly. Any other emojis, are, if I’m honest, banned. A bottle of champagne would be ridiculous (I don’t drink), a party hat – I’m not 6, and don’t get me started on a tick or a 100 – I’m not even sure what they mean.
So you’ve probably gathered at this point, I don’t like emojis. I don’t like them for quite a few reasons.
Firstly, I think they’re infantile. They’re the keyboard equivalent of a 2 year old with a crayon firmly held by a chubby hand drawing something that looks bloody awful and telling you “it’s mummy” or a “beautiful flower”.
Emojis are lazy and their overuse MUST be affecting the literacy and eloquence of us as a society. Why would you need to know the word ‘perturbed’ or discombulated‘ when you can just select a confused emoji and have done with it. If you don’t know the words exist, then you’re not making the most of a language that is rich with nuance and culture, that is in need of preservation.
Now at this point, I should come clean. Because 12 years ago, I saw the popularity of the original emojis – the smiley on a Nokia – using the colon symbol and an open bracket for a smile. I ran with those first emojis, producing a range of postcards using existing grammatical symbols to create a range of 4 simple emotions.
I can remember showing it to someone who was working here for some holiday money – his response went something like this:
“That’s just great. You have the worst of both worlds. A hideous expression of modern pop culture combined with a ‘text’ that takes at least 24 hours to be received by the intended recipient. Good job.” Now imagine that being said in the monosyllabic tones of a 19 year old history student with a serious and untreatable case of sarcasm and you’ve kinda got the vibe.
“Perfect” I responded and sent to print.
And they did very well for us, those postcards. We were ahead of the curve by about a year so they made it into quite a few boutiques that do nonchalant cool with twists of irony so brilliantly.
And we also produced some matching ‘txt speak’ versions including LOL (which I think my lovely in-laws still think means Lots of Love). And I use text speak and the standard wink, smile and unhappy faces when I’m not really thinking about what I’m writing or when I think a more detailed response is unnecessary. My own phone can not read emojis any more complicated than a few of the basics. Consequently, I often find myself looking at a text from a friend that is made up entirely of black squares. I’m hoping that it’s a barrage of emoji abuse, but I can’t help but think it’s possibly an offer of a free meal – I just wouldn’t know. But, all bad choice of ‘phone aside, I still can’t help but think that the world has gone mad with it, hasn’t it?
Orwell called it. I know that the comparison has been made by many many, far more eloquent people than I, his explanation of ‘Newspeak’ in 1984 sums it all up for me – Orwell explains that Newspeak “…. is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning”
… and dumbing down our ways of communicating with others is really very scary. I’m perturbed. And I don’t think there’s an emoji for that.
So, on my birthday, if you simply post an emoji cake on my wall, I will judge you.
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