Emoji are also useful in overcoming language barriers as they can be easily understood and are universally recognised. However, they can still be a potential minefield, such as intercultural differences in the interpretation of some common emoji.
For example, the “OK” sign 👌 may have positive connotations in most cultures, but in Tunisia, Greece and Turkey, the gesture may be considered offensive, and it has even been used by the far right as a symbol of hate.
Likewise, even though the thumbs-up 👍 can mean “okay”, “good” or “accepted”, it may have a pejorative meaning in countries such as Iran and Iraq.
Even if the meaning of an emoji is not in doubt, there is no guarantee that miscommunication can be avoided, as in the case of the unfortunate Canadian farmer.
Although he may have assumed it was clear that his thumbs-up emoji meant he had received the contract, he may not have foreseen that it could have been misinterpreted by the issuer of the contract as indicating acceptance of the contract.
Both Google and Apple introduced emoji to Gmail and iPhone OS, respectively, in 2008. In 2010, a proposal to standardise emoji was finally accepted by Unicode, which is an encoding standard that provides letters, digits and symbols with values that make them interoperable across various digital communication platforms.
In 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary wowed the world by making the tears-of-joy 😂 emoji its Word of the Year, explaining that “emoji have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate”.