Even if you’re not 14, emojis have become as common in online conversation as Hitler references in YouTube comments or Michael Jordan in tears. They’re almost their own language at this point, which made me wonder: Could I spend an entire week speaking nothing but emojis?
Why emojis? I’m fascinated. As someone who is below average at learning foreign languages — currently 37 percent fluent en Español en Duolingo — I’m in awe of how The Unicode Consortium has created a globally universal standard for images. It’s not perfect — almost nothing is — but it’s close.
Teenagers and millennials can communicate solely in emojis. I’ve seen them in their natural habitat.
Are we truly ready to get by with only pictures?
Fred Benenson, along with 800 people on Amazon Mechanical Turk, translated all of Moby Dick to emojis. Don’t let the title, Emoji Dick, fool you. It’s a fascinating take on fine literature and safe for work.
This is old news but timely for a new discussion. A book is one thing, but are we truly ready to get by with only pictures? It worked for the Egyptians and they built pyramids. The last thing I built was my own pizza on the Domino’s app.
Like Matt Damon in The Martian, Tom Hanks in Castaway or the pants in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I was ready to embark on this adventure alone. I told no one, except for my editor. The last Jeremy heard from me was a series of seemingly pointless emojis.
I figured out rather quickly that emojis weren’t going to work in email. Most email clients are not equipped to handle emojis, yet they can handle Microsoft’s Clippy and Drake GIFs. So I tabled email and focused solely on texting, messaging and social media.
My fiancé started texting me about her day, what was bothering her, what we should do for dinner that night. I responded each time with heartfelt emojis. Surprisingly, she was not amused.
When she got home that day I finally had to let her in on the joke. Surprisingly, she was still not amused.
Posting to Twitter and Facebook was a breeze. All that time I had spent trying to come up with the perfect thing to say or apply to a trending hashtag could be said with fire, 100’s, trophies, keys and crying laughter faces.
I was still allowed to speak on Snapchat or at the grocery store or while using Snapchat at the grocery store. So that made it easy. Emoji could only replace written communication. Verbal communication is still faster and more efficient face-to-face or face-to-Facebook Live.
By now, random acquaintances and colleagues had contacted me and received a bushel of handcrafted, farm-to-table emojis in return. Thirty percent responded in kind with more emojis. Fifty percent responded WTF. The other 20 percent did not respond.
Were people ready to speak solely in emojis? The signs were pointing to no.
I was beginning to get annoyed. Sarah, my fiancé, had stopped texting me. One of my friends told me that I had changed. Of course, I had to respond to him with a crying face, 100 and a pair of pants.
By this time, only the people who saw me in person knew. But that was only a handful. It made me realize how rarely I’m face-to-face with the people in my network. I could have taken to live video to explain. That was a loophole but I decided against it. One day to go. I could make it.
As the final day ended, I couldn’t wait to write words again. That’s what I do for a living. I write words to convey emotion, context, subtext, sarcasm, desire, humor, perspective. That’s what emojis lack, still. That’s what hieroglyphics lacked. That’s why we evolved from hieroglyphics to written language. But it was still worth the gamble.
A poop face, fire or laughing cat can’t get you through everything.
Emojis are great punctuation. There a way to convey humor before, during or after conversation. They are great for quick back-and-forth between two friends. But like a ‘90s sitcom star delivering a PSA, I have to warn you about the dangers of emoji.
There will come a time when you need words. Trust me. A poop face, fire or laughing cat can’t get you through everything. Also it takes way more time to search for a phone and a clock that says 11 rather than just say “phone call at 11am.”
The more you know.