World Emoji Day 2021: How emoji can help create a more empathetic world, for all of us

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 15 July 2021: In celebration of World Emoji Day, Adobe is excited to share the results of the 2021 Global Emoji Trend Report, which surveyed 7,000 people globally. Among the findings include:


Connecting in an otherwise disconnected space

Language can be very abstract, and this is especially the case when we are communicating in the digital realm. We respond more emotionally to imagery, and so, emoji can help approximate tone of voice, gestures and emotional reactions better with imagery than with words alone. This is the potential strength of emoji: to help us connect more deeply to the feeling behind messages sent by digital text.


A little levity and cuteness goes a long way

Emoji sometimes gets criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication. We all have stories to tell of accidentally coming across as insincere, or even rude, in digital communications. The antidote to being perceived as a jerk, when that is probably not our intention, is to add a little bit of levity and heart by integrating imagery into our messaging. Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it’s easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood.

It is not surprising that so many people feel more comfortable using emoji than chatting on the phone or in-person. Emoji gives people the chance to pause and choose an appropriate image to convey how we are feeling and how we hope the other party will feel. Even when discussing topics that are somber, we can often still find an appropriate emoji to communicate to others that we care, even if we are saying some things that might be hard to hear.


Avoiding awkward situations

Dating is always a tricky enterprise, especially in our era of online dating and communication. It is dangerously easy for even the most charming of us to come across as weird or awkward online. When having conversations with people in real life, for example, we don’t always have to respond to everything verbally — sometimes, we simply give someone a look or make a funny face and that’s enough to make our point.

But in text, it can be much harder to know how to respond when asked a question we’d rather avoid. Simply responding with emoji can make it much easier to express ourselves, even if that means not answering questions directly.


Communicating across cultures and languages

An important part of the Adobe emoji study is that it surveyed so many people residing in several countries. It found, overwhelmingly, that people love using emoji to express themselves, and that emoji even helps them overcome language barriers and form connections that would be otherwise more difficult. Many have initiated meaningful relationships online and made acquaintances with folks whose languages differ to theirs. Thoughtful use of emoji is often able to help keep these connections intact.


The English idiom says that ❛a picture is worth a thousand words. Although an emoji might not be worth a full 1,000, it certainly can help in fostering relationships within the digital realm.


An age of empathy, right on time

We are at a crucial time in our history as human beings — we are becoming more aware of people that are different from us or have different struggles, and we are trying harder than ever before to understand one another. Anything that sparks empathy and understanding offers us a crucial benefit. Now is the right time to have those harder conversations around race, gender, and unequal policies, so we can make the world better for all of us. These are heavy topics, but even within these loaded spaces, there is room to use emoji thoughtfully.


Emoji are a reminder that we live in a world of real things and real people –  even if we are only approximating our appearance using little yellow smiley faces or cartoon pictures of objects that we love. Having some imagery often helps us connect with those concepts and those ideas more deeply than we would by words alone.


Whether they are villainized as the despoilers of language or beloved as a fun, new way to express ourselves, emoji are most importantly another tool available to help us share our personal narratives. One of the greatest things about storytelling is that everyone has a tale to tell. The best stories are illustrated with pictures, and emotionally engaging narratives have the ability to profoundly shape the world around us for the better.


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