As many of you have no doubt seen by now, on Wednesday 15th August I was lucky enough to be invited to appear live on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, as an expert speaker on the subject of emoji and their use in workplace emails. For those of you who missed it, here is the full segment in all its glory:
I’ll come on to the subject of emoji shortly, but first a word or two about the experience itself. I’ve done radio interviews multiple times, and I’ve done pieces to camera for online videos many times, but this was my first experience of live television, and it really was a fantastic experience. The research and support staff behind the scenes at GMB went above and beyond in organising the logistics of being in London for 6am in the morning, and from the moment I arrived they made me feel welcome and at ease, despite that thought in the back of your head that you know you’re about to be watched live by about a million people across the country.
As you have seen from the interview, my argument in favour of the use of emoji in work emails is focused around the idea that emoji enable us to more effectively convey the emotional inflections of what we’re saying in written messages. This has always been a great difficulty, and is something that we have all experienced first hand, whether it be an email from the boss, or a text message from your partner (many a night has been spent down the pub asking friends “what do you think she means by that?”).
In answer to the response that emoji are too informal to be used in work emails, I would actually agree. Yes, they are very informal, when held to the current standards by which we determine what is formal and informal. The beautiful thing about human language, however, is that these standards are constantly evolving and developing to accommodate the way in which we most naturally communicate. Not too long ago, it would’ve been considered far too casual to use the word ‘would’ve’ in place of ‘would have’, and yet here I am using it freely. If we go back to the Norman conquest of England, we would find that the royal court spoke in French, and that English (such as it was then) was considered the language of lower classes. This notion remained in place until the early 15th century – Henry V was, in fact, the first king of England to actually write in English.
The point is, language, as with many things in life, are not fixed. They evolve and develop to suit our needs, requirements, and ever increasingly so – our conveniences. The tears of joy emoji is a great example of that convenience. Once upon a time we would have said in a message “I’m actually laughing out loud at that”. That then evolved into the archetype of text speak – “LOL”. The tears of joy emoji is the next logical step in the process of conveying something to another party in the most convenient way possible. That right there is evolution in its purest form.
A lot has been said since the interview about the way it was handled, and the treatment of myself and Grant (the other expert) by the hosts, specifically Jeremy Kyle. Anyone watching from the start of the show would have already had an inkling into his personal thoughts on the subject, and I was ready for that – after all I had been asked to take part in a debate, and a core part of debating is the defence of one’s opinions. I did not get to speak much with Jeremy before or after the segment (he was after all in the midst of a live broadcast), but as with everyone else that day he was polite and courteous, and it really was great fun to be part of such a spirited discussion.