When communicating with each other, we tend to overlook just how much we rely on non-verbal cues. Among other things, our body language such as hand movements, breathing, eye contact, and facial expressions along with the characteristics of our speech such as the tone of our voice, the speed of our words, frequency of our communications, and so forth are just as crucial to communication as the language that we’re using.
For example, if someone was sobbing after losing a loved one while telling people that they’re “fine”, most of us would prioritize their non-verbal communications ahead of their actual words and assume that they are not fine and not telling us the truth. But, when we are communicating via a written language, we are blind to these non-verbal means and can find that it can be quite laborious to convey or interpret the tone and emotions as a result, unlike when we are communicating directly in person. Then we discovered Emojis…
Though they are often likened to millennial hieroglyphs or viewed as anything from pointless to obnoxious, Emojis may also be a more efficient means of conveying tone and emotions than any other written language. Along with being incredibly intuitive and enabling us to incorporate non-verbal communications such as facial expressions into our writing, Emojis can also enable us to succinctly convey emotions with less words than we could without them. As such and from the perspective of Kolmogorov Complexity, written languages augmented with emojis can communicate tone and emotion in less characters than the same language without emojis, making writing more efficient, less redundant, and less complex.
In simple terms, you can think of Kolmogorov Complexity as a character or letter count for a sentence. As the sentence increases in character size, so does its complexity; as you find shorter and more succinct ways to define the same thing, you reduce its complexity. For example, rather than writing “thirty two”, we can simply write one of its numerical values such as “2⁵”, “32”, or even “16 + 16” instead. Since all three methods have less characters in them than the word “thirty two”, they are all less complex.
In conjunction with a written language, it’s easy to see how Emojis are no different from numbers in this regard and because of this, they can reduce the amount of characters and consequently the complexity of our communications in much the same way. Just as Arabic numerals can define numbers more succinctly than letters, Emojis seem to define our emotions more succinctly than letters can just the same.
Applying the same to concept to emojis:
“I am happy”
“Hey, I’m super proud of you! Great job!”
As a species and whether we realize it or not, we tend to gravitate towards new methods and technologies that save us time and energy and Emojis are no exception to this. Their application and rise in popularity since the 90’s is not only a persistent reminder of just how advantageous non-verbal cues are in every day communication, but also serve as a reminder that language evolves towards efficiency just as we do. Sure, Emojis can be annoying and obnoxious at times, but this is how language evolves and they are here to stay until they are replaced by more efficient means; whether anyone likes it or not.
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