The Shifting Paradigm…No Words for Emotions


Pallavi Borgohain
Every morning when I get a good morning message, I reply with a smiley with smiling face or a thumbs up sign. So the response comes from the other side with a smiley. I wonder are we heading towards a symbolic language than using words to express our emotions! We are actually residing in a world where we are slowly dissociating from the normal conversation to a completely virtual world where our facebook uploads are getting more likes than our real life achievements. As if life is getting trapped in a self created exile than a real world.

I wonder do we really use words? Be it a serious corporate meeting or a kitty or a family get together aren’t our conversations getting replaced by selfies? Probably we are heading towards another world where our words are becoming less. Probably we are heading towards a visually driven world where emojis are replacing our words, texting replacing our writings, videos are replacing reading and normal conversations are being replaced by whatz app texts and gatherings to selfies. Moreover you are at a danger of being misinterpreted if our texts are not punctuated with smileys such as angry, happy, sad or some kind of irked emojis. A famous linguist of Delhi Bharat Dhiwan feels that emojis are helping to bridge the gap between visual emotions and words.

It is actually difficult to comment whether emoji’s are enhancing our communication skills or taking us back to the ancient era where pictographic symbols are used for communications. It is said, “when emotions are high words are few”. Right from the beginning of the discovery of alphabets man used symbols to represent their emotions. So the use of symbols dates back to the ancient time. History reveals the use of pictographic and hieroglyphs and cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamian civilization around 5000 BC. Sousing pictorial symbols to communicate is nothing new to the human civilization. The idea behind using pictorial symbols is actually quite old. Francis Bacon and John Wilkins dreamt of developing a visual language that could take us back to the pre-Babel era. In the 1950s, a World War II concentration camp survivor named Charles Bliss devised a set of symbols with a hope that he would preclude war by facilitating communication among speakers of different languages. In 1969, Vladimir Nabokov told The New York Times: “I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile … a supine round bracket.” But now Man’s way of communication and showing emotions are once again replaced by gestures, symbols etc., other than words.

Today not only in the conversation between friends and families, abounds in the use of emoticons but even the top executives of the corporate world extensively uses emojis in their conversation. People feel that the emoticons give the effect of a face to face conversation. According to a study published in the journal of Neuroscience, it is said that the when we look at emoticon online, same parts of the brain are activated as it happens when we see an actual human being. It has a very interesting say on the use of smileys during online conversation. According to the study people involved in the conversation even changes the facial expression to adjust with the mood of the emoticon send during the conversation. Emoticons, when used well, can add the subtleties of vocal inflection, facial expression, and body language to a written note.

Different linguists have different opinion about the use of emoticons. They interprets it in different ways. A famous digital media expert Chetan Despande calls the emojis as the new language. A communication without emoticons is irrelevant in a digital age.

The new generation is now slowly getting attracted this new way of pictorial composition for communication. Emoticons help teams communicate better. Sometimes words just won’t do. … For nearly any mood or feeling you’re trying to convey, emoticons can help with that.
A restaurant in London has an emoji only Menu. The universality of emoticons has even led one hotel in New York to allow customers to request room service by texting emoticons detailing their order. So are the big companies using the emoticons to de-stress and bring about a change in the way they communicate. Some pioneers are Chevorelet who has come up with an emoji press release asking the employees to decode the language. So is Goldman Sachs who has come up in its twitter account with a research on Millennials. The micro-blogging sites have emojis in thousand numbers expressing all moods. They charge the companies on million dollars for customised emojis.

Another research suggests that use of emojs lead to more effective interactions and enhance communication in work place. Snapchat is also not far behind. They spend $100 million that turns your face to an emoji.

Are emojis really complementing the communication system or not it is yet to be understood but its use in the daily conversation is increasing considerably. The movie Emoji Movie which is recently released creates an imaginary world of emojis where each character is given a particular emotion–it may be sad, happy or digusted, romantic or crying, etc. No matter what the emotional state is.. an emoji of this film can exhibit only one character as assigned by birth. However in reality we won’t be settling sown for only a single emotion.

The emoji’s are a prominent feature in today’s conversation. We are not only beautifying the conversations but at the same time we have been expressing complex human feelings like breaking down, jealousy, fear and even severe situations like that of condolence through pictures.

It often so happens that when we want to express the right things we lack the right words.
Words always fail to express exactly how a person feels. Especially in situations like death or a breakup. As people shared a close relation with each other, at times silence was more expressive than what real words could express. Now that the relations and the age both are digitised, the emojis are actually helping us to express ourselves in a very excellent way. Probably in an age where people are more inclined towards instant gratification and sudden relief, emoticons are actually very easy-to- use tools that are helps us to give vent to our emotions. And of course, the visual effect of these emojis are in reality helping us to understand the relationship or are they actually restricting us from expressing our emotions, it is a question yet to be answered.

However the paradigm shift of using emojis instead of flowery literature to express complex and sensitive emotional state of our mind is actually bringing about a revolutionary change to the whole monotonous aspect of virtual communication. But the pitfalls and disadvantages of its use are yet a subject of debate.