Emoji and post-literacy

In The ‘Mood Graph’: How Our Emotions Are Taking Over the Web Evan Selinger writes about the rise if emoji and other emotional signals in social media:

But there are costs to a mood graph too. The more we rely on finishing ideas with the same limited words (feeling happy) and images (smiley face) available to everyone on a platform, the more those pre-fabricated symbols structure and limit the ideas we express. Such general symbols can also lead to even more confusion or misunderstanding due to cultural, generational, and other differences.

And finally, drop-down expression makes us one-dimensional, living caricatures of G-mail’s canned responses — a style of speech better suited to emotionless computers than flesh-and-blood humans.

It’s a great article well worth reading all the way through. This trend is a continuation of something I’ve discussed quite often here over the years: our move towards a post-literate society:

What is post-literacy? It is the condition of semi-literacy, where most people can read and write to some extent, but where the literate sensibility no longer occupies a central position in culture, society, and politics. Post-literacy occurs when the ability to comprehend the written word decays. If post-literacy is now the ground of society questions arise: what happens to the reader, the writer, and the book in post-literary environment? What happens to thinking, resistance, and dissent when the ground becomes wordless?

I find myself here in full agreement with Guy English from his post Learn to X:

But, let’s not kid ourselves, literacy is the new literacy. The ability to read, comprehend, digest and come to rational conclusions — that’s what we need more of.

Emoji are fine, and I’m as much a fan of the animated gif as anyone. But I do feel like we’re trying to create all these shortcuts to express our emotions because it’s hard to do it in words. The thing is, though, it should be hard to express our emotions. That’s how we understand them and work through them. So let’s go easy on the giphy.com searches every once in a while, and try to find the right words instead.

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