Emojis: a universal language? Not for Gen Z
A priori, emojis make it easier to convey our emotions or ideas when we send text messages. So, we slip in a crying laughing emoji 😂 to express a funny anecdote, we use the thumbs up 👍 to show our approval, or we add a red heart emoji ❤️ to show our affection. Further still, a message sent without emoji may seem cold, even unpleasant in certain contexts!
But lately, a new phenomenon is emerging on the side of Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2010). Indeed, younger generations seem to use these symbols in a roundabout way, sometimes with more sarcasm or irony than previous generations. There is no longer any question of using the emoji crying with laughter 😂 in the first degree, without running the risk of seeming old-fashioned, or of adding a smiling emoji 🙂 to want to show sympathy, whereas this one is perceived as sarcastic by the youngest.
A phenomenon that can be explained in particular by the desire to renew exchanges and find new identities for emojis, while Generation Y (the population born between 1984 and 1996) has already overused these symbols.
As a result, new uses appear, and new codes are created. While emojis were supposed to facilitate exchanges, they are now likely to lead to misinterpretation, especially during exchanges between two different generations!
The Hidden Meaning of Gen Z’s Most Used Emojis
Currently, many emojis have been hijacked and have double meanings. You will find below a list of the main pictograms used, and their hidden meaning!
The crying emoji 😭
No, this symbol does not necessarily mean that you are sad. On the contrary, the youngest use it, in most cases, to express an extremely funny situation. Also, note that the emoji 🤣 is considered old-fashioned!
The smiling face 🙂
At first glance, we can imagine that this smiling face gives off a positive message. On the contrary, this emoji is increasingly used by Gen Z in an ironic way, to show that a situation is absurd or to express contempt. Another variant to express sarcasm: the face upside down 🙃.
The skull emoji 💀
This emoji alone offers 3 different meanings: death, the translation of “died laughing”, to express that a situation is very funny, or to demonstrate that a situation is absurd.
Two different meanings here: on the one hand, the sparkles help to show excitement and joy, and on the other, this emoji helps to add a touch of ✨sarcasm✨.
The red and hot face 🥵
This emoji is used in 3 different situations by the youngest: to express high temperatures, to show that one is embarrassed or embarrassed, or to flirt with someone.
The pleading face 🥺
This emoji can mean that we are moved by a situation, or that we are begging someone. Note that this symbol has been a real success lately, rising to 3rd place among the most used emojis on Twitter in the world, in 2021.
Emojis: a 140-year history
We use them all the time and we see them everywhere: over the years, emojis have become part of our everyday language on the web. But in fact, where do they come from? The history of these pictograms began in 1881, with the birth of text emoticons, published in an issue of the American magazine puck.
More than a century later, in 1997, the company SoftBank in turn embarked on the creation of 90 black and white pictograms. Finally, the rise of these pictograms began in 1999, when the Japanese telephone operator NTT DOCOMO called on designer Shigetaka Kurita to create new emojis. The goal? Facilitate exchanges and the transmission of information in a concise manner. Often considered the first real emojis, these became so popular that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired them!
From 2010, emojis will become essential in our communication methods, with their integration into the standard Unicode language, but especially with the addition of the Unicode emoji keyboard on Apple devices, 2011.
Since then, emojis have become an integral part of our daily lives. We constantly use them in our messages, on social networks, and also in the professional context. Brands are adding pictograms to humanize their messages, and it is no longer uncommon to see emojis in email exchanges between employees.
🥛 (😂😍😎)🎲🚣🏻♀️ 🪑 🍔👑
— 🍔 👑. 🇬🇧 (@BurgerKingFR) July 13, 2022
Finally, it is possible to find one (or more) hidden meaning behind each emoji. In addition, it evolves over time, and sometimes changes depending on the person you are talking to, or the social platform you are using. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an emoji is worth a thousand meanings!