Emojis: Emotions of the 21st Century



Charley Levine

Emojis. The emotive characters that embellish digital communication and have brought flat text to life since the late ’90s. These characters have proven no fad but a language of their own. Feeling sad? What kind of sad? The 3,600 accessible emojis have you covered, although they do put you in quite the plight. Do you most resonate with the “Loudly Crying” face (😭) emoji, the “Sad but Relieved Face” (😥), the “Crying Face” (😢), or the “Face with Tears of Joy” (😂)? Humanity’s infinite emotions are encompassed almost in their entirety, making it simple to match a face or a symbol to just about any emotion. Now, in our modernized world, emojis have taken digital communication by storm like never before.

As the world becomes increasingly modernized and globalized, emojis continue to stand the test of time. Among social media platforms, humanity especially voices its opinions through the meticulous selection of emojis. According to Brandwatch.com, a site that annually monitors society’s most used emojis, in 2021, the most popular character was the “Praying Hands”(🙏). Hmm… I wonder why. The unprecedented year can even be unveiled through a simple statistic. So, clearly, emojis are spot-on when it comes to portraying our current, authentic emotions.

One common misconception with emojis is that they are restricted to young kids or teens. I will tell you from experience, this is far from the truth. Grandparents, like mine, send their grandchildren messages with hearts and heart-eyed emojis to portray a warm, loving tone, and they do so ALL the time. However, between both generations, Gen Z and millennials, certain controversies have arisen over what is “cool” and what is “uncool.” The clashing of these generations can be unveiled through the discussion of the “Rolling on the Floor Laughing” emoji (🤣). This emoji has proven to be one of millennials’ most used emojis, but Gen Z has condemned the use of it as some claim it is “cringe.” While emojis may cause controversy between the two internet-savvy generations, there is no doubt that people of all ages utilize emojis in their day-to-day life.

With the immense popularity surrounding emojis also comes controversy over the meaning of the symbols themselves. One contentious emoji category is the hearts, solely due to the fact that there are over 25 heart emojis to choose from. Is there really a difference between the “Red Heart” (❤️) and the “Blue Heart” (💙)? Absolutely. The classic red heart emoji symbolizes love and often romance. It camps out in the comment section of just about any teenage girl’s Instagram post. Otherwise, it is utilized often in the text messages your extended family sends you out of the blue to remind you that they’re thinking of you. A blue heart however, well, is blue. Blue has a sad connotation that conveys a less romantic love, and I often find this emoji pretty rare to come across. Even the “Sparkling Heart” (💖) embodies another form of love, but this heart takes a sweeter approach in conveying its message. Ultimately, we each have different interpretations of the diverse emojis. It’s all based on perception. 

Emojis have proven effective over the years in bringing people together through the warmth and amicable environment they provide. Receiving a positive, smiling face from a friend always lightens the mood when necessary, and a unique set of emojis can always induce a laugh. So how do you add your personal touch to a message? We all have our personal staple when it comes to emojis, so what’s yours? How does the face or symbol embody your personality?