Today is World Emoji Day.
Every year tens to hundreds of new emojis appear on phones worldwide.
Two experts explain how the pictures influence our way of communicating.
The first real emojis were designed in 1999 by Japanese computer engineer Shigetaka Kurita.
Phones in this day and age had small screens and barely the ability to display images.
The advent of smartphones has given us the opportunity to express ourselves more and more visually, explains emoji expert Lilian Stolk.
"Telephones were then given such a large screen that there was suddenly room to add part to our communication."
According to linguist Lieke Verheijen of Radboud University, the pictures make it easier to express emotions.
"In an oral conversation you have non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions, hand gestures or tone. You don't have that through written text."
See also: Face that cries with laughter is again the most popular emoji
There is also a second advantage, says Verheijen.
"By adding a happy or sad face you can give a different meaning to an otherwise neutral text. It's not so much about expressing your own emotions, but about how you want others to perceive your message."
Emojis: universal language or not
According to emoji expert Stolk, there is a third advantage: the pictures are a universal way of communicating.
"A heart emoji (❤️) means the same thing in every country," she says.
Verheijen does not fully agree with that statement.
"There are too many emojis that have different meanings in different countries for that."
For example, she points to the emoji that gives a thumbs up (👍).
In Western cultures, this is a sign of approval, while in the Middle East this gesture is considered vulgar.
According to the linguist, there are actually few drawbacks to emojis.
"Our written language is not affected by the use of emojis. It is not the case that we only communicate in emojis."
People do have different opinions about when it is appropriate to use emojis, says Verheijen.
"For example, in emails at work."
She emphasizes that generational differences can play a role in this.
Not a good representation of the world
Emoji expert Stolk believes that emojis are not a good representation of people around the world.
"Whether a new emoji is allowed is determined by American authorities. At the same time, it is also not possible to translate the whole world into emoji, because then there would be too many."
Stolk also calls the use of emojis "a lazy way of communicating" in some cases.
"If you really want to let them know that you're thinking about someone, it's more valuable that you do it in words."