On September 19, 1982, Carnegie Mellon professor Dr. Scott Fahlman invented the first emoticon: the humble smiley.
Every September 19 — that’s today, by the way — Fehlman hands out smiley-face cookies at the Carnegie Mellon campus in Philadelphia.
Now some 6 billion emoticons are sent a day.
They have evolved into emoji, which are different, though intimately connected. Emoticons are spelled out with type, like the smiley face in Fahlman’s email above, while emoji are actual pictures, shown below.
Emoticons are much more vital today than they were in 1982.
In 2015, Americans spend a reported 26 minutes a day texting and 6 minutes a day on calls. It’s a trend that’s been growing since 2008, and now, we send five times as many texts as phone calls, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Emoticons and emoji have a special place in text messages.
Consider media richness theory, which grew out of organizational psychology back in the 1980s.
Basically, media richness theory states that different mediums — in-person, video conferencing, phone calls, text — have different richness of signal. When you talk to someone in person, you see their expressions and gesticulations, which are preserved in videoconferencing, but not on the phone or by text. When you’re on the phone with someone, you get their tone of voice, which you don’t get over text.
Since so much of communication is embedded in the emotional contents of vocal tone, losing all that means that the signals we send via text have less richness, less strength of signal.
Emoticons and emoji are the best adaptation that we have to this era of text-based communication.
Take it from Harvard linguist Steven Pinker.
Emoji “happen to have not become entrenched yet, but as with many of our punctuation symbols, like a question mark or an exclamation point, they are there to convey some communicative force that would not be obvious just from the arrangement of words on the page,” he told us in an interview.
Without smileys and hearts and sad faces, communication in 2015 wouldn’t just be starved for emotion. It would be very, very
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