Since their release in the late 1990s, emojis have gradually become a part of everyday conversation. These little pictures started out on Japanese mobile phones, and quickly made their way to computers and other mobile operating systems. Emojis add a little bit of flare and spice up any dialogue. Once used as a novelty by teenagers, emojis now grace all demographics.

There are emoji decorative pillows, a plethora of other emoji merchandise, and celebrities have taken it a step further with personal emojis. For example, professional basketball player Stephen Curry recently released an emoji keyboard, which consists of the normal emoticon faces plus you get his face, along with other emojis related to his life. Unlike the normal emoji keyboards, these celebrity variety does come at a price. If you’re into that, then it sure is out there. (Honestly, if a Game of Thrones emoji keyboard were a thing, my friends would have a lot more fun reading my emails.)

Are we experiencing an emoji epidemic?

In 2015, the Oxford Dictionary made the Word of the Year the ‘Tears of Joy’ emoji. The Oxford Dictionary blog stated, “? was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflects the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.” This was the first year in which a pictograph was chosen over an actual word. The ‘tears of joy’ emoji was the most used globally in 2015, which is promising on the outlook of 2015.

Emojis allow for clarification from the ambiguity of a message. The benefit of the emojis are they demonstrate an emotion or expression and help keep the tone of the message from being lost in translation. This is huge for the social media world we live in.  A message could easily be taken the wrong way because the tone of voice was not understood.  Emojis can help clarify any message.  (Or you could be like me, and use them to confuse people. Oops ?.)

Another benefit of emojis is that they can be a response or conversation starter themselves. For example, if the response is just simply, “?” you would assume the user is sad or feeling for you.  You just have to hope the person you are having a conversation with understands emotional cues in order to continue the conversation.

But what do your emojis say about you?

According to a study, those who thought of themselves as more likable or agreeable were likely to use positive emojis during a conversation. For example, people who use positive emojis, like smiley faces, hearts, or the thumbs up, are more likely to be open to new experiences and diligent.  While those who are less worried about others opinions were not scared of using negatively-connotated emojis.

Those who used social cues and emotional cues in a real life conversation mirrored how they responded in a virtual conversation. Particularly, on social media sites. These audiences are a lot wider, and can tend to be people who do not know you personally. Using emojis is a way to validate expressions and show personality via social media.

The use of emojis can shape how people perceive you. A lot of people include emojis in Instagram bios to help distinguish who they are, or create their brand. So when you see someone with an Instagram bio with ??❤️?you would have to assume the users are a couple of trekkies that love pizza, if we are being literal. But that is one of the great things about emojis – not all of them are used in a literal sense. (Which validates my decision to use the salsa dancer in every situation, right?)

What’s next?

As of June 21st, Unicode rolled out 72 new emojis added to Unicode 9.0. This update appeared on iOS and Android once the software hit this past September. With 18 new food emojis and a handful of outdoor emojis (like a fox, an owl, and a canoe), they’ve given foodies and nature lovers even more of a reason to join in on the colorful convo.

Also, Facebook has released 1,500 new emojis to the Messenger app. These emojis are now more consistent with other emojis across multiple platforms. According to Forbes, “Women are the most frequent users of emojis, but they are underrepresented in existing emoji sets.” To fix this, Messenger adapted to represent more women, including female police officers, surfers, and pedestrians. I think I speak for women around the world when I say this is a welcome addition…and IT’S ABOUT TIME.

So huzzah for our ever-maturing emoji keyboard! ✌️❤️????