Well dear reader, it has been quite a journey since my last blog post. It’s hard to believe that it has been so long since I last shared a small slice of Swenson with Off the Shelf. There are so many monumental changes that have taken place since my last post! This time, rather than try to summarize what has happened since my post of Valentine “gift suggestions” or create anything like the reading lists that other authors on here post, I feel more like bringing something simple. Nothing too flashy or funny, but still near and dear to my heart. I am naturally talking about… emojis. 

You know, emojis! The fun little faces, animals, shapes, etc., that you can flip through and find when you are trying to express a certain something. Ever since I learned how to make smiley faces with punctuation marks I have been drawn to these silly little graphics. To me, they have been an incredible tool for passing along a bit of extra inflection when typed words leave it a bit open ended. My colleagues can attest to my over usage of these precious pixels, but in my defense, I feel they add just a little levity in a superbly stressful season.

These modern-day hyroglifics started being sent during the mid 1990s in Japan on various cell phones. Since this was the first time pixels were being used to send something other than text, each company had a slightly different set of emojis that could be sent. This became troublesome as these little jumbles of joy grew in popularity and the discrepancies between providers became more obvious. You might send a peace sign from your phone but if your friend had a different brand of phone they might end up with a frog instead. Just like a dictionary is helpful in defining words, computers look to their encoding system to see how to translate the bytes of data into something humans can understand. 

The Unicode Standard had been introduced in 1991 as a possible one stop shop to simplify and standardize the way computers interpreted typed characters. It was not created to send emojis, but rather tackle the more daunting task of making sure written language characters displayed the same on all devices. Thanks to Unicode each letter had its own distinct number and it spanned all sorts of languages, so it didn’t matter if you were typing in English, Swedish or Spanish, your computer would display the characters that the author intended. It may not have been made for emojis, but, in 2010, Unicode officially accepted 625 emoji characters into their growing collection of languages and the popularity only grew from there. Since there are millions of possible permutations on a smile, it is much better to have one central place to provide the guide on how to display them.

Take for example, one of my personal favorites, the smile with a slight cold sweat →  😅 It is the perfect representation of how I am often feeling these days, cheery with chance of misfortune. What do you put on the end of the phrase that you are uncertain about? 😅 What if you are being asked about a blog deadline that’s approaching? 😅 How about when your wife wonders why there are so many Sonic Happy Hour receipts in the minivan? 😅 This little face is my go to. How can you properly express the feeling of nervousness while remaining positive? Sure, I could type out all of that, or I just use 😅

“But Eric”, you may say, “how do I use these fantastic bits of brevity?” Great question, dear reader. It all depends on where you are in your digital world. Are you on a Windows computer? Use the keyboard shortcut WINDOWS + Semicolon. What about for the Apple side of the house? Use CTRL + CMD + Space. How about on a mobile device? On the keyboard, when you are responding to a text, look for a smiley face. That’s usually the way to open up the emoji keyboard.

Now, before I conclude my little ramble through the brambles I feel I should also mention that sometimes emojis are not the best thing to be using. Most businesses do not want any of their official communications to be littered with little smiles or zoo animals. Save your 🥰🍩 and 💲😎💲 for the informal chat box or texts to your loved ones. You never know, maybe a little 🌮🤗 is just what they need today.

From my 💻to you! 👍