Do we really need all these emojis?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Emojis are getting out of control
While sci-fi movies from the olden days show people living in the future having video conversations all the time, reality turned out to be quite different. Not that people don’t “skype” and “facetime” each other, but for most of us those are exceptions rather than the rule. In reality, communication has instead regressed to text messaging.

Texting is going through an evolution of its own, however, and the days of trying to add emotion to your words simply using the symbols available on your keyboard like brackets and semicolons are long gone. These days every respectable messaging app supports pictures, videos, GIFs, stickers and of course, emojis. These not only make our conversations more fun but can also be used to add context to your words that you’d otherwise convey through the tone of your voice, gestures or facial expressions.

Emojis - the salt of texting

As silly as they are, emojis have become an essential part of our conversations and we often rely on them to react, express our feelings or just make things more light-hearted. Emojis help keep both parties on the same page regarding the overall mood of the conversation. We all have that one friend that practically never uses emojis and the interactions always seem colder and clinical as if you’re making a dentist’s appointment. Emojis add a bit of flavor to your messages as long as you don’t go overboard with their use.

Naturally, developers want to cater to the needs of the users so they started adding emojis for every conceivable emotion. Soon that wasn’t enough, however, and more and more subjects were added to the list: fruits, vegetables, sports, jobs and so on. It’s gotten to the point where two people can have a whole conversation just using emojis.

And while having a choice is a good thing, having too much choice can sometimes be detrimental. And when it comes to emojis, we’ve passed the threshold of variety that’s practically useful for us and have gotten deep into excess territory where the bountifulness is hindering our experience.

Emojis variations we don’t care about

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about having emojis for pizza, tacos, fajitas and all sorts of other things. Those are all different foods, after all, so it makes sense to have an emoji for each. Where I think the “emojiologists” have gone too far is with the added variety within a single object with such minor differences in details that most users would never bother using them for their appropriate cases. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

This image contains two prime examples of what I think are unnecessary variations. There are 24 emoji with a clock showing different times. Who would ever need the extra 23? I can’t imagine someone messaging a friend and saying: “Hey, let’s meet at :emoji of a clock showing 8:30: “ It’s in no way better at describing what you want to say than writing the actual numbers of the time in question.

And then there are the moon phases, which are arguably more diverse but still, having a conversation in which you’d need a specific moon phase to add to your message is such a niche case that it seems absurd to have all of these at your disposal. Basically, there are 4 rows of unnecessary emojis in the image above. But let’s continue our journey of nitpickiness.

Okay, so we have a notebook and a pile of notebooks, that’s fine. But then we have seven other types of notebooks. Would it really be so confusing if you’re using an emoji where the notebook doesn’t have a spiral that there has to be another one with a spiral? I very much doubt that. Or you’d want to tell someone that you forgot your blue notebook at home, so you send them the blue notebook emoji. Will they realize the color of the emoji matters? Probably not, so why even bother? And one last example from that category:

Three stages of sun peaking behind a cloud? As if when you send one your conversation partner will immediately realize that it was, in fact, cloudy three-quarters of the day and not one quarter or perhaps half the time.

Niche emojis for your once-in-a-lifetime needs

While the previous section contained emojis that have legitimate usability but there’s just too much variety, here we’ll discuss the ones that can be used only in super-specific cases. So specific, in fact, that most people wouldn’t even suspect there’s an emoji for that one thing, let alone look for it and use it. Here are some examples:

Moon Viewing Ceremony emoji

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against traditions, but how often would someone use this emoji? Not only does the person that’s sending it has to care enough to seek it out, but the other party in conversation should also be familiar with the ceremony to realize that’s what the emoji represents.

Man in Suit Levitating

Where do I even begin? We’ve all had a conversation where we just needed that levitating Men-in-Black-style agent emoji, right? And luckily, it was there for us to use! It’s just not something you can represent in any other way! Once again, technology comes to the rescue. 

Petri Dish

Who doesn’t like to visualize their daily anti-bacteria rants with a nice petri dish emoji, am I right? I mean, bacteria is literally everywhere around us and Petri dishes is where we grow them for testing, so it must be a pretty important emoji to have. I really doubt that and yet, here we are.

You can find plenty more emojis that 99% of smartphone users will never include in a message. But it’s not like we’re paying for them, so why not have more choice?

More is not always better

The problem with the extreme number of emojis is that it makes finding the ones you want to use harder and so time-consuming that you give up on it altogether. You have to either scroll through multiple pages of emojis or type the name or a keyword in the search bar, but if you’re going to do that you might as well write it in your text message. Sure, most apps and keyboards/apps have a “recent” tab where your commonly used emojis go, but their arrangement is constantly shifting and sometimes one that you only used once will show up and stay there for days.

It would be nice if we had a tab where we can pick a set of favorites you use without having random ones you’ve used once show up and disturb your flow. Another good solution would be to have similar emojis can be bundled with only one showing on your list and then you can collapse the rest if you want to choose another moon phase, for example.

What’s more is that there are more emojis added regularly, which means things are only going to get worse over time. Obviously, I realize that sounds like the most first-world problem you can have, but with texting taking a prime role in our lives these days it’s important for it to be as convenient as possible. Right now, the emoji aspect of texting is not as streamlined as possible. 

Hopefully, software developers will figure out a way to contain the avalanche of emojis and manage them in a way that will be quick and intuitive to use. Then, and only then, people will finally be able to write their dissertations using only emojis, which is obviously the end goal.

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