The emoji, or “picture character” in Japanese, has nowadays become an accepted standard for simplifying emotional expression and enriching our conversations online. Amongst teenagers, it’s easily the most popular non-verbal feature in text messages (adults try other ways to show interest). That seems fitting as the emoji is a teenager itself.
Emojis have evolved and expanded rapidly since their creation in 1998 or 1999. There are now 1,394 different ones (1,851 including variations) and we can expect 69 new ones in June (which includes the shush and Pinocchio face). There’s no doubt their usage will keep evolving, and as it does, it’s important to understand so does their meaning.
But for those of you who aren’t working to decipher the meaning like we are, we’d like to point out some interesting discoveries on usage. Last year, researchers from the University of Michigan and Peking University published a study on emoji usage across nearly 4 million smartphone users in 212 countries and regions. They analyzed a month’s worth of messages or 427 million messages from Sept 1-30, 2015. The research found that 😂 “face with tears of joy” is by far the most used emoji, comprising 15% of the total symbols in the study.
In second place they found the ❤️ “red heart” and in third place is 😍 “smiling face with heart-eyes.” Their findings are more or less in line with emoji usage on Twitter.
So if you thought you were special because your crush sent you a ❤️ or a 😍, you might want to think again. These emojis are now used so much and often in a non-romantic context that their significance gets diluted.
According to the study, the French use emojis more than any others, followed by Russians and then Americans. In addition, the romantic French embrace icons associated with hearts, while users from other countries prefer emojis related to faces. Remember that the next time you get a ❤️ from that hot French exchange student. It might as well be a 😊. Don’t feel bad about replying with a 💩 – it’ll at least show more originality.