Emojis are the Internet’s Empathy

In a recent move to help students comfort and express support for others dealing with cyber bullying, British telecommunications company Vodafone just released a new set of emojis. After a study done by YouGov, it was found that a lot kids just don’t know what to say to a friend that’s having problems with cyber bullying.

The idea behind these emojis is that they will help kids express empathy and concern for their friends, without having to try to find the complicated words behind those feelings.

These years for a lot of kids represent a delicate social dance, and almost everyone has been the brunt of a bad joke at least once before. Sometimes kids feel put between a rock and a hard place when a peer has become the victim of cyber bullying – they know they should be compassionate, but they don’t want to become a target themselves, so more often than not, they stay quiet, keep their head down, and try to avoid involvement.

This move by Vodafone addresses a much bigger issue than people’s desire to use shorthand to communicate, but rather the complex social dynamics that can work to stunt progress in the issue of cyber bullying.

While parents and lawmakers may agonize over solutions, ultimately it’s up to the kids themselves to work out these problems, and solid communications skills are key. But what happens when a student has to choose between a moral imperative and their reputation?

An emoji is a simple way to convey a feeling that may be a bit more complicated to spell out in words, and is an excellent way for anyone online to lend emotional context to what they’re trying to convey. It’s not just a quick way to get out of using ‘actual words’, but the solution to an ongoing problem with the barrier that exists between online and face to face communication.

More than anything, what this move by Vodafone really teaches us is that communication isn’t always black and white, and that there’s a certain context to everything that may not make it across the WiFi. Cyber bullying stems from a problem with relationships. There’s a lot of ego and narcissism thrown in there, but more than anything, it’s the inability to communicate effectively with one another that fosters these problems in the first place.

While we can all work on our own communication skills, a large part of this is also teaching our kids to interact with each other, even when it comes to people they may not necessarily get along with. These are skills that they can continue to build into their adult life and relationships in their career and families one day, but it all starts here.

The true end to cyber bullying isn’t a bill or an ad campaign, but teaching our kids how to interact in a constructive and concise way. As the medium continues to shift, some of us need to set aside our resentment of online shorthand and understand that emojis serve an important purpose in online communication.

Ultimately we’d all love for our kids to communicate sympathy and respect for one another with words and heartfelt sentiment, but these feelings are incredibly complex and difficult to sum up sometimes, even for adults. That little heart with the arms hugging it may seem trivial, but it speaks volumes to someone who just needs to feel like they’re not alone.

If you’d like to check out some of Vodafone’s new emojis, check them out on Flickr, and be sure to keep up with this company’s continued efforts to bridge the gap between communication and conflict.

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