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The Constantly Evolving Language of Emojis: How the Internet Shapes Communication

  The iteration speed of the Internet is amazingly fast.
   A few years ago, smiling was still used to express friendliness when chatting. Within a few years, the look and feel was almost like “hehe”. Nowadays, if you want to express friendship, you must at least send a sweet red smile, or a grinning smile, preferably an emoticon, and preferably still moving.
   In a word, it must be exaggerated and strong enough.
   If anyone still smiles at you on the mobile phone today, he is either an expert in the world, or he is deliberately indifferent, expressing something like “not going to break up, but not very happy” degree of dissatisfaction.
   Smiling and hehe are obviously polite, so why do they make people feel upset?
   Expressionists believe that when a person smiles but his eyes do not smile, this is an unhappy fake smile. To borrow a psychoanalytic term, this smile is too “controlled.” A simple tablet with nothing superfluous. Just like the “smile service” waiter, even the upward angle of the mouth is molded. Although it is expressing politeness, it is also saying: “I don’t want to give you anything but politeness.”
   “Can you swear? No. Then just smile.” What many people saw from inside was vaguely sarcastic. Even if the other person is clearly smiling.
   Some people see indifference in the smiling expression, which shows that our preset interpersonal attitude on the Internet is hostile. This kind of projection has become more and more manifest over the years. Without clearer signals, we are all assumed to be unfriendly at first. You have to work really hard to break this assumption.
   The so-called “exerting force”, specifically, means using more exaggerated expressions and more dazzling expressions. You need to prove your friendliness, and the bar for proof is getting higher and higher. In the past, if you just said “Hello”, others would believe you. When “Hello” becomes conventional, you have to type more words to create a higher concentration. Later, when the text was no longer dense enough, expressions had to be used. WeChat’s original emoticons are no longer enough, so we need to add pictures and animations. Maybe one day if we want to show friendliness to others, we need to send a short video first.
   We have entered an era where we use “force” to prove our friendliness.
   “New World” conducted an experiment to see what it would be like to chat with people 24 hours a day without using emoticons. More than 5,000 volunteers participated in the experiment, and a third of them did not make it to 24 hours. More than half of those who managed to persevere had a bad experience. They have to constantly explain to people that they are not angry. Many people worry about being misunderstood and appearing aloof or unsociable in the eyes of others.
   This is a ridiculous rule of group survival: everyone must work hard to show their friendliness at all times. Anyone who does not work hard enough will be considered unsociable. Over time, this expression has only grown in popularity. Sometimes, you will find yourself being held hostage. If you stay in a work group and your boss posts anything, a bunch of people will follow it enthusiastically. You must follow immediately.
   I want to write something sincerely, but among the emoticons flying all over the sky, I can’t help but look shabby. To keep up with everyone’s pace, you can only be a porter of the network, but you can’t move it too cheaply. How can I show that I have put some effort into copying and pasting, rather than just copying something casually? This is also a technical job. Fortunately, you can now send red envelopes, which alleviates a little trouble.
   But, maybe trouble is what we need.
   The temperature of interpersonal relationships is essentially trouble. The Internet sometimes makes people lonely because it generally exists to eliminate trouble. Improve efficiency, reduce costs, and be highly replicable.
   The Internet makes the time we allocate to each of us become less and less. The product manager is still thinking for us: Can it be faster and easier? What can be done in three seconds should never take five minutes. You can ask questions and answers quickly online, instead of taking time and effort to get them in real life. Is there any problem that a meme can’t solve? Just use two emoticons.
   Everyone feels that others are getting busier and busier, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet in person. It seems that we are upset about the “smiling” expression, but there may be a greater dissatisfaction behind it.
   ——Actually, no matter how busy you are, there is always time to meet. The question is what are you going to do? Isn’t it better to talk about something online? It’s all communication, why bother?
   At this time, what else can you do except keep smiling?
   This is an era when we have lost our sense of relationships. We want to define a relationship as quickly as possible, but we also refuse to be defined by others too quickly.
   It is difficult to extricate yourself from this dilemma. Loneliness is eating away at everyone. One side of loneliness is distrust, and the other side is the desire to trust. We rack our brains and respond to each other’s desires with the most gorgeous words, the most intense expressions, and even a humble gesture: “Really, I’ve used all the emojis.” And the more we use the emojis, the more we use them. The farther they feel each other’s temperature, the farther away they are.
   Anyone who is in love knows that to express “I like you”, no matter how much you swear, it is useless.
   The most important thing is how much time you spend.

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