Julia Greenberg writes: “Emoji are the language of our online era, … conveying things mere words often cannot. We send emoji to improve upon, even expand, our words and bring emotion—affection, frustration, love, anger—to the conversation. Now, like the tweets, posts, and texts that are a crucial part of the way we communicate today, emoji, and their brethren emoticons, are finally getting their due in court. And like everything we love online, it’s complicated, kind of.”
Emoji are like our offline nonverbal communication: “When you talk to someone in person, you hear the intonation of their voice, see the cringe of their face, and react to the movement of their body. Online, we have only words.” But we can add emoji: “They can transform a sentence that seems serious into a joke, or make what seems to be a joke serious. They can be playful, sarcastic, ambiguous, and dirty. Sometimes, they replace words altogether.”