The digital world will never capture the intimacy of an in person conversation. Chat, email, text, Skype, whatever your online communication preference is, it has emotional limits. You can never truly gauge someone’s emotional state unless you’re in front of them. The nuances of tone and body language are crucial. Then come the eyes. The glisten of joy, or narrowed brow of fury. Unmistakable. They’re not referred to as the window to the soul for nothing.
We all know the danger of trying to read emotion from a text message. More often it reflects our own mental state than the person we’re corresponding with. The brain is a master at convincing us of what we want to believe vs. reality. So trust the Japanese to invent a solution in the form of the emoji – literally meaning picture character. It’s a digital emotion and they are everywhere. There’s even an emoji parody of Game of Thrones.
The good people at DataLab at FiveThirtyEight have nailed down the top 100 most popular emojis on Twitter. I’m sure you can guess what No.1 is. It’s a heart. People love to love. Secondly, they love to be happy (the joy emoji took the bridesmaid slot). Emojis sum us up so succinctly. We crave emotional expression, especially in a digital world. We want to know what someone is feeling, not just what they’re saying.