At the end of 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced that its Word of the Year would not be a word at all, but an emoji - the 'face with tears of joy' emoji, in fact.
As a twentysomething female, I am meant to be an avid user of emojis. According to the 2015 Emoji Report from Emogi, 78 per cent of women regularly use the symbols in comparison to 60 per cent of men, with 72 per cent of under-25s also using them frequently. In total, 92 per cent of the population is believed to have used an emoji at one time.
Yet I have never used a single one. Not a face with tears of joy, not an aubergine, and not a steaming pile of poo. And I don't intend to, despite emoji being named the fastest-growing language in the world, with academics comparing it to the hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt.
Here's just a few of the reasons why I can't stand emojis, as well as what I think is a much better visual option to enhance your content (I'm not just ranting, promise…):
They're EVERYWHERE (*insert weary face emoji*)
Aside from finding their way to the top of the OED's prestigious Word of the Year list, emojis have managed to creep their way into just about every aspect of modern life.
They're all over our Facebook feeds, Kim Kardashian has of course spotted another money-making opportunity and released her own range of 'Kimojis', and they're being used by a whole host of other brands. There's no denying that they've been integral to some very successful marketing campaigns of late, with McDonald's creating an entire advertising campaign using emojis relevant to its brand.
Even the BBC has begun to use emojis to accompany its headlines on social media. Occasionally, the news provider is seen adding a football emoji to a sports-related tweet, or a film reel to a video, despite already explaining what the post is in the accompanying text. Can people no longer tell a video is a video unless it is accompanied by a tiny picture of a film reel?
To me, emojis fall into the same category as words such as 'bae' *shudder* and 'on fleek'. Would the BBC use those?! I want authority and engaging images from my content, not the same old tiresome emojis.
Are we all robots who can't react properly anymore?
When reading Facebook posts, we now have the option to 'react' to them, rather than just 'like' them. But didn't we used to react anyway, by posting our thoughts underneath a status in the comments box? Surely those opinions were much more useful to brands and provided more detailed feedback than a 'wow' face?
It appears that the 'face with tears of joy' emoji is the new LOL. Rarely did anything that was followed by a LOL actually cause someone to physically laugh out loud - that was often saved for the acronym's LMAO cousin. And seldom does anything accompanied by 'face with tears of joy' actually induce tears of elation.
Similarly, the much-used aubergine emoji is deployed in a phallic manner across dating sites, apps and private messages alike. But would you ever send a vegetable as a flirty response in real life?
Well, you can, with a new service from eggplant.com, which allows you to send aubergines via the post to a recipient of your choice - something that has proved strangely popular.
Furthermore, research carried out by TalkTalk Mobile last year led to the discovery that 72 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds in the UK are more comfortable using an emoji to convey their feelings than putting them into words. As this demographic gets older and are joined in their excessive emoji usage by their younger counterparts, this avoidance of emotions and detailed communication is only likely to increase and brands may need to embrace emojis to ensure their content appeals to this growing demographic.
The importance of unique visuals
But is this really necessary?
Digital marketer Jeff Bullas states that content with relevant images or graphics tends to get 94 per cent more views than content without. Meanwhile, the Chief Marketing Officer Council found that almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of content marketers are planning to create more engaging visuals over the course of 2016, indicating that the majority are shunning emojis in favour of unique imagery.
We all know that unique content is preferable, particularly when it comes to visuals, so it's vital for brands to make sure they are investing in custom graphics, image collages and illustrations to make their content stand out from the crowd. And if their audience 'reacts' with a 'wow' emoji, well, that's as good a result as can be hoped for in today's world.
And as for me? Bring back the humble emoticon. :P