The British Library currently has an exhibition on called “Writing: Making Your Mark”, looking at the evolution from hieroglyph to emoji. This got me thinking about how and what we communicate in today’s cluttered world of comms. Although we talk about innovations and technological advances, are we in fact in a regression?
Hieroglyphs were invented by the Egyptians and are widely viewed as the very first type of ‘written’ communication, a complex library of pictures used to illustrate words. Fast forward 5,000 odd years and we are back to using pictures as words, thanks to the emoji’s appearance in 1999. In today’s mobile world, there is rarely a text or email sent without the use of an emoji, often used to illustrate a reaction or response. Some would even argue that emojis have replaced the written form of sentiment, and have become the most effective option to express emotion and interpret text when you can’t see the person you’re communicating with.
Bt Wat Abt Txt Msgs?
The heyday of the 90’s texting generation spawned ‘SMS language’, or texting language, when mobile phones only allowed for 160 characters. Its popularity spilled over to early adopters of web-based instant messaging and was often used in communications as space and time-saving measures, regardless of character-limitation. It heralded an era of brevity and conciseness, creating a new language of abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud), BTW (by the way) and TTYL (talk to you later). Even the bible was translated for the text message generation. Two decades on, we continue to largely use texting language verbally as well as in written form – as recognised by annual additions to the Oxford English Dictionary. CRUD, anyone?
Evolution or devolution?
What’s the future of writing and language? If the past two decades of emoji use have taught us anything, it is that humans have re-adopted ancient forms of communication. Out of laziness or simplicity, emojis are here to stay, as is the brevity of acronyms and texting language that has become ingrained into our social and daily lives. Our consumption of ‘digital’ is only going to increase. More than 65 billion messages are sent through WhatsApp every day, more than double the amount three short years ago. But with an ageing population we could see a regression towards the creature comforts we were once familiar with. That said, it may be a case of simpler times, simplistic communications and simplifying jargon that has seen today’s modern society carry the traditions of ancient times and the use of pictures.