Emojis Are Becoming A Bigger Part Of Conversation ;) With Facebook unveiling additional emoji options, linguist Tyler Schnoebelen talks about how emojis are changing the way we communicate.

Emojis Are Becoming A Bigger Part Of Conversation ;)

Emojis Are Becoming A Bigger Part Of Conversation ;)

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With Facebook unveiling additional emoji options, linguist Tyler Schnoebelen talks about how emojis are changing the way we communicate.


It's time now for Word's You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand some of the stories we'll be hearing more about in the coming days by parsing some of the words associated with those stories, except this week we're not using words at all. It's smiley-faces, sad faces, thumbs-up. That's right, we're talking emojis, a series of characters and images used to express emotions in electronic communications. Last week, Facebook was just the latest tech company to revamp its emoji reaction buttons. Meanwhile, emojis are becoming more common and worldwide. And they're changing the way we communicate. To find out more, we're joined by sticky-tongue-out, frowny-face Tyler Schnoebelen. He joins us now from KALW in San Francisco. Tyler, welcome to the program.

TYLER SCHNOEBELEN: Thanks for having me.

WESTERVELT: So Facebook and texting have been around for years. Why do you think there's been this explosion of emoticons and emojis now?

SCHNOEBELEN: I think that it has to do with people getting access to more resources for expressing themselves. So the amount of text in the world has skyrocketed over the last few years. And one of the things that's true is that it's traditionally lacked an ability to really give a sense of personal style and emotion when you're really normally talking face-to-face. Or even as we're talking here over the radio, our voice cues give us all sorts of information. Facial cues give us more information. We haven't had those in text, so that's why my emoticons and emoji have really taken off, I think.

WESTERVELT: I mean, there are things that only face-to-face human interaction can express, things emojis can't express. Do you worry about that, as someone who works with these all the time?

SCHNOEBELEN: No, I don't really worry about emoji having deleterious effects on people or communication or cultures. I think that it's really just getting access to more of our expressive capabilities in a new format. And it's also still a small part of our lives.

WESTERVELT: Give us an example of when using emojis might be in bad taste.

SCHNOEBELEN: Well, emojis carry with them a kind of playfulness. So they're really not appropriate and people tend to not use them when they're really outraged or when they're really grief-stricken. So, for example, if you look at #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe - those hashtags on Twitter - people used very few emoji with those. The few that they did were basically the fists for solidarity and some hearts. And so the emotional universe that we have doesn't always work with emoji, which are going to be lighter than really serious emotions.

WESTERVELT: What's been the reaction so far of Facebook adding emojis? I mean, there's also been talk that Facebook will learn a lot about its users from this, more data analytics. Is there truth to that?

SCHNOEBELEN: Yeah. I think there are two reasons that Facebook is excited to have this. One is that people for years have been saying well, there's far more than just liking a post. People put sad news or things that make me upset. I want to have some way of reacting that isn't a thumbs-up. So in this way, it sort of expands the ability for people to react. And then simultaneously for that, yes, Facebook can get a lot of value out of this because now they are able to tell their advertisers and other companies yeah, here is what people are liking, here's what they're not liking. We have more than just this sort of rough thumbs-up, which has to do with engagement but doesn't tell me anything about the kind of engagement.

WESTERVELT: Do you have a partner or friends who sometimes say Tyler, stop speaking to me in emojis, just tell me what you think?

SCHNOEBELEN: I'm pretty judicious in my use of emoji, so I don't think I get accused of that very often.

WESTERVELT: Tyler Schnoebelen is a linguist and founder of Idibon, a company that specializes in finding language patterns in text for business and organizations. Tyler, smiley-face, thank you.

SCHNOEBELEN: Thank you, heart.

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Are You Liking Facebook's New Emojis? Scrap That. Do You 'Wow' Them?

FB Reactions

We've been in that awkward situation where you're not sure whether to "like" your friend's Facebook post about the death of a relative.

Thankfully, Facebook has heard our woes and decided to spare us that moment of frustration by rolling out five additional emojis globally Wednesday.

The ambiguity of a thumbs up is now resolved — we can also choose from "love," "haha," "wow," "sad" and "angry" emojis. The three most popular reactions will be shown on each post.

Some users say it's been a long time coming. Twitter changed its "favorite" star icon to a "like" symbolized by a heart last year — a move that former Twitter senior VP Kevin Weil said increased activity on the platform by 6 percent in the first week.

As Twitter said: "We know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite."

In the same vein, Facebook says it released Reactions so you can more "easily and quickly express how something you see in News Feed makes you feel."

What do users have to say about the change?

So Facebook is basically BuzzFeed now. #reactions

Posted by Brian Snyder on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thanks to the reaction options, I can finally hit on people by ❤️ing their statuses until it becomes far too obvious and it ends up alienating our relationship!Thanks Facebook! :)

Posted by Anthony Hirsch-Drechsler on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Some found it a throwback to the past:

In the company's press release, Facebook Reactions is also touted as an opportunity for "businesses and publishers to better understand how people are responding to their content on Facebook." To which a user Tweets:

There was a consensus: There is still no dislike button — or emotions that show sarcasm.

Facebook's rollout of Reactions is a bid by the company to increase user engagement on News Feed as the social platform gains more and more mobile users. The Wall Street Journal reported in November that Facebook users are posting less on the social network, but are more likely to "like" posts.

How the responses will affect which posts show up in your News Feed is still to be decided — should more posts marked "love" be bumped up, or posts marked with "angry"?

But for now, you can release all those emotions you've kept in for so long on Facebook. Let us know how you feel about the new options in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Zhai Yun Tan is a digital news intern.