When I heard that someone had taken the time to translate the Holy Bible into Emoji, my first thought was to write a blog post in Emoji. But I can’t. Which is to say that I can, but I won’t.
Words, you see, mean things. Actual, specific things. Used with precision, words can wound – they can cut, they can punch. And they can heal. They can sway. Deter. Inspire. The cadence of a well-crafted sentence requires a broad vocabulary. Meaning simply cannot be conveyed by a smiley, unicorn or thumbs-up.
When emojis first arrived the scene, I paid little attention. Seemed another silly text fad. When the Chevy commercial relied on emojis to sell cars to millennials, I wondered how much that effort wasted.
But then I thought, I must be missing something. In a very short span, we’ve gone from actual words (laugh out loud) to shorthand (LOL) to emoticons <:-) to emojis. We’ve gone from kids texting and tweeting to sophisticated advertising to actual published works. And not just any published works.
We’re talking about The Bible. In Emoji.
Emoji is not a language. Strictly speaking, Emoji barely meets the academic definition of “communication.”
No, I’m not being old and stodgy. “Communication” requires a signal (the emoji) to be sent, received and understood. (Otherwise, that would be miscommunication.) A textbook example would be the story of a guy walking through the park who sees a pretty girl waving and waves back, only to discover that she was actually waving at another guy standing near him. Emojis are a lot like that.
If you and I are communicating, one-to-one, my use of a clever emoji to highlight my point – in context that you are already privy to – is perfectly acceptable. But when emojis are used broadly, they lose their personal touch, and with it their deeper (if any) meaning.