If you weren’t already mourning the decline of the English language thanks to textspeak and Internet acronyms, you might be about to start: social media app Instagram is reporting that Emoji is the new go-to slang for the tech-savvy.
Instagram – the photo-sharing phenomenon that’s been embraced by teens, foodies and celebrities – has released results of an analysis into Emoji use by its users, with the findings showing that almost half of all Instagram comments now contain at least one of the popular pictograms.
Emoji, for those unfamiliar, are a bunch of small, simple pics that can be used in place of text in messages, social media posts and online. The Emoji characters first came to iOS users in 2011, with Android devices getting the feature a year later and 2013 seeing an all-Emoji translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (called – you guessed it – Emoji Dick) hit the Internet.
Now, in 2015, Emoji has become what Instagram calls ‘a valid and near-universal method of expression in all languages.’ The popularity of the symbols isn’t just limited to English speakers - the above analysis ranks Finland as number one on Instagram’s list of Emoji-loving countries, closely followed by France.
Regardless of country, usage patterns are similar. Instead of using dated slang such as ‘LOL’ or ‘LMAO’, users instead prefer the ‘crying with laughter smiley face’ Emoji character – it’s the most-frequently used symbol on Instagram posts. This is followed by ‘smiley face with love heart eyes’ in the number two spot, and a simple red love heart in third place.
It’s easy to understand the popularity of the symbols: after all, a smiley face generally translates the same in any language, and peppering communication with cute images and characters is a way to individualise, and pretty up, your conversation. So it makes sense that using complicated acronyms, and typing in full sentences, might be replaced by a quick thumbs-up symbol or 'kissy face'.
Instagram’s findings coincide with the app allowing users to hashtag Emojis, and search for posts via the tiny pictograms. Well, most of them anyway – the ever-popular purple eggplant Emoji is blacklisted from Insta-search, most likely because the vast majority of usage has nothing to do with actual eggplants. As to what users are actually referring to, we’ll leave it up to your imagination.
If you want to get in on the trend, check out our guide to setting up the Emoji keyboard on iOS devices and on Android smartphones.