Just because I don’t use emojis doesn’t mean I’m depressed.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Raul Petri on Unsplash

I think a lot about written languages made of pictographs. Originally, that meant all of them. Originally, writing was drawings representative of real things. After zillions of iterations and the perpetually morphing — some might say advancing — needs of human communication, all the little pictures gain greater symbolism. For every little bit of symbolism the drawings gain, then, it makes less sense for them to look like the little pictures of fish and drying racks and trees or whatever that originally had a one-to-one relationship with the thing they represented. Then, after a few generations, we reach the point we have now, where the needs of written language exceed the mandate of pictographic writing and we arrive somewhere that the way letters correspond to language requires a degree of formality that means we live in a world with people who make their entire lives out of arranging these once pictographic representations of precise objects into what amounts to Astral projection on a time delay.

That works out great for cats like me, aiming as we do on, as I say, making it our lives’ work to explore that formal art that is turning these once pictographs into other things.

It all falls apart for cats like me when we’ve got to engage in the informal. Which has become the mainstay of written language. And that’s a development strange and odd to me. I’ve spent all my brain on figuring out the best way to write my thoughts inside the formal framework that’s arisen from people interacting with these once pictographs and developing all the “rules” needed to keep them sensible.

Then the human race did what it always did: it added more framework so it could communicate better. The informal needs for communication demanded it, and language responded with something ancient: pictographs, which is all smileys and emojis and similar are.

Which is why I always come across as sober. Or sarcastic. Or whatever it is I come across as. I ignore this whole world of aids to communication that language developed to compensate for the strange new (ish) frontier of informal written language.

And I feel so very, very old. Although different degrees of expertise have always given it color, writing has demanded a certain degree of formality in every age.

Until now, when literacy has risen to a level of concentration that it has stopped being an exotic, uncommon power. Writing has become mundane, and anything mundane becomes everyday, and anything everyday must yield to everyday needs. Thus smiley-face, winky-face, turd.

I will describe the emojis. You can imagine them. That’s how writing works: abstractly connected sounds coordinate between semi-intelligent minds and evoke pictures. Communication. If I wanted to draw you a picture I would have put more energy into learning to draw.

I don’t know how to communicate in modern English. It’s been said. Language ought to evolve. We once had pictographs that meant specific objects and evolved a need to communicate more abstractly so we changed those pictographs to be vaguer and, ostensibly, more versatile. We write to each other so much now that we need to communicate more efficiently than the vague and more versatile symbols can communicate. We need symbols that reduce whole moodscapes to two or three characters. We must need them because we have them. Their ubiquity bespeaks their necessity.

Because a few of us just won’t use them, we get to be depressive relics of a middle age that’s maybe ending.

The fact that language once again needs pictographs fascinates the hell out of me. As a signal of civilized development, it fascinates me that we find written language insufficient, and maybe what we have begun to develop is a system that will become a system of universal symbology. Since the point of emojis is to communicate abstract thoughts quickly, it doesn’t stretch credulity too far to think that communicating by emoji might supersede a need to, for instance, learn another language. Maybe. Could be. I mean, the need for a smiling pile of shit does raise an eyebrow or two, but there are plenty of instances when we might need something like that, so who knows? We might be onto something here.

Really, though, I’m not always depressed. Or sarcastic. Or angry. Or being dismissive. Sometimes, but not always. Those are, apparently, the default states of the human character, which I can tell because it’s always assumed that, because I don’t use any emojis at all, that I am always sad. Not sure how it turned out that no emojis equals sad, but there you are. That’s the world we live in.

The best part of being a mime is never having to say I’m sorry.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store