Emojis: The colorful little copouts for those moments when you don’t care to parse the shades of meaning between “happy,” “delighted” and “elated” and instead simply click on the tiny yellow face with the broad smile and crinkled eyes.
Just so you know, dear reader, in addition to being national Talk Like a Pirate Day (I am not making that up), today also happens to be the day that, in 1982, that Dr. Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University created the first documented emoticon, a simple smiley face that would go on to usher in a veritable tsunami of symbolic stand-ins ranging from every kind of human facial function (smiling, crying, smirking) all the way down to an emoji version of toast. Do people really text that often about toast? They must.
Emojis are fine, I suppose, for the many among us who are exceptionally pressed for time. A surgeon about to scrub in for a life-saving operation, after all, could not reasonably be expected to type that he is looking forward to his beach vacation—hence, the sand-waves-umbrella emoji. The very same logic applies for the man rushing to catch a plane who also needs to tell his wife about the very nice piece of toast he just ate.
Yes, for some people emojis serve as delightful shorthand, a pixel-based poetry. But sadly, for me, this is just not the case.
You see, for many years I have suffered with a seemingly incurable form of O.L.E., known also as Overanalyzing Literally Everything. If you are similarly afflicted, you know all too well that this is no laughing matter. In addition to taking a full 15 minutes to decide which breakfast cereal to buy at the grocery store, or whether someone sounded angry in a voicemail or just blasé, people with O.L.E. are incapable of seeing even the most banal of movies without dissecting each plot point to death.
It’s ridiculous, and, worse, there is apparently no cure. If you see me at the pharmacy trying to pick out a birthday card for my husband’s boss, I respectfully ask that you don’t try to talk to me during the first hour. It will only make it worse.
“How are things going?” people sometimes ask me. Do you mean like right at this moment? Overall? On that project I mentioned I was hopelessly stalled on? With my five-year personal improvement plan? Wait--where are you going?
Texting, as a thing, has not really been around that long, so it’s understandable that some of us are still kind of figuring it out. But how, for the love of all things holy, is one supposed to decide in the midst of dashing off a quick text which of the hundreds of available emojis best sums up one’s current level of happiness/anger/frustration/skateboarding/eating fruit? Am I upset enough about this car repair bill to type the angry little face with the nuclear mushroom cloud exploding from the top, or does it only call for the grumpy frowny face? Maybe I’ll just throw everyone for a loop and respond to every text with the red ball of yarn. Good luck figuring that one out.
By the way, there are actually people who bill themselves as Emoji Translators.
They might be able to help me.
[Insert face with rolling eyes here].