The infamous smiley face



No, I’m not talking about the smiley face from Nirvana, or the one which was on buttons and badges everywhere in the 90s, I’m going to have a brief discussion with you in regards to emoticons. Or is it emojis? Maybe you call them smileys? Icons? It’s interesting that we have a couple of names for these little images, but whatever name we give them, no doubt they are the best physical representation we can give of our feelings in text form. Well, unless you’re an eloquent wordsmith and can touch hearts and minds through mere vocabulary (I’m working on it).


I remember the first time I encountered emoji’s was through my Nokia 3210.

Image: Nokia 3210 by MiNE (CC BY-2.0)

Ah, what a classic of a phone. It had snake, no colour screen or camera, and if I dropped it in the toilet everything was still going to be okay. My introduction to emoji’s was like ASCII art, it was based entirely on keyboard characters. There wasn’t any pictograph representation in 2003. If you wanted to a smiley you had to work for it.

This used to be one of the ways we communicated non-verbal expression, but I’m sure this already existed on the internet before my discovery of them through my phone. I had a phone before internet, so when I discovered the world of the internet through the might MSN (Microsoft network) instant messenger program – OMG ALL THE SMILIES. In fact back in the day there were heaps of websites offering unique smilies that enticed you to click this link and be transported to a website and download the smilies pack. This, dear readers, is how I infected my family computer with its first ever virus. It was enticing because using these little icons was pretty cool. It offered another level of expression and customisation. You could stand out in the crowd and make your online language more personal.The ones we had on MSN were animated, and I saw animated emoji’s on other forums, usually through BB boards. I don’t think I’ve seen an animated emoji in many years. Maybe since 2009? This coincides around the time with the release of the smartphones. Again, we’re back to phones. It’s relevant though, because I believe that phones really took off with this latest generation of emoji’s, and what helped kick start it was that phones were now able to be used for internet applications including several social media networks. No longer were smilies/emoji/emoticons just for text messages to each other or for instant messenger programs such as MSN. They could be used in a hybrid format.

I primarily see emoji’s today through Instagram and Twitter, both microblogging and social network platforms. With the advent of Facebook including emoji’s to signal your feeling to a status update – it was no longer just a simple thumbs up. Where’s the thumbs down though? Hmmm.

It truly fascinating that outside of the internet, emoji’s have gained traction in real world. In fact there’s a stall at my local Westfield that sells emoji pillows. Yes. Pillows designed and shaped like emoji’s.

Image: Photo by Eleni Thanos

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Image: Photo by Eleni Thanos….of Eleni Thanos


How incredible is it that something as simple as an emoji can actually have market value? Emoji can even have perceived brand value, as evidenced by custom emoji created for corporate brands such as Burger King , NBA, Seinfeld and even celebrities have their own, such as George Takei. Emoji are serious business in digital communications, with Instagram making waves in 2011 by incorporating the iOS keyboard so users could use their favourite emojis and Twitter has a function that allows marketers to search via emoji.

There’s also a variety of products physically in homage to the emoji. In fact, there’s plenty of emoji merch available such as:

Decorative items

Image: Photo by Eleni Thanos


Image: Photo by Eleni Thanos




Image: Emoticon stamp photo, Eleni Thanos




Image: Emoji Donut, Eleni Thanos.   Where is the poop emoji chocolate donut??



and apparently a movie.

Image: screenshot taken by Eleni Thanos


No doubt there are more. These are just some that I have observed directly.

Emoji I believe also have the potential to act as digital signatures. It’s safe to assume that we all have our favourite. I love the animal ones, but I really wish there were more dogs. Seriously, where is the pug emoji?

I called out to my #ALC203 and #ALC708 classmates for their help.

I initially wanted to see how emoji on iOS looked in comparison to android emoji (I have an android phone) but then I remembered my partner had installed the iOS emojis on my phone, so that was going to be useless xD  I decided to salvage the exercise and use it as an opportunity to see what emoji my classmates use most often, or at least what they had used frequently. Pictures say a thousand words, and I think that looking at an individual’s most frequently used emoji list gives some insight in to their communication style. How friendly they want to appear, or they are quite visual and wish to illustrate their text to enhance their message. Here are some from my classmates and myself.

Image: Screenshot provided by @TanikaCW


Image: Screenshot provided by @_mollyjean_
Image: Screenshot of my frequently used emoji, on my android


You can see how similarly we three communicate if you judge us based on our frequently used emoji; all three of us have used faces and hand gestures. There are differences of course and I think these differences serve as another form of digital signature. I know I find myself using the thumbs up more often instead of replying “okay”. Sometimes you just want to express the moment with an image. Use of emoji is a topic I will be discussing in my assignment post on how I create my online identity, so watch this space if you have voyeuristic tendencies.


I’ll leave you in closing with this question: take a screenshot of your most used emoji on your phone and post it on the comments or on twitter and tag me at @EleniThanos87. Share with me your favourite emoji finds! I’m always keeping my eye open to new uses of emoji in offline culture.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s