Is writing doomed to be replaced by emoji and their cutesy kin, stickers? No need to tap out a text if you have LINE, the Japanese chat app. Because there’s a sticker (or anime´ character) for that. As long as you’re cool with appointing a cartoon bear or rabbit the ambassador of your thoughts.
The Jap app launched in 2011, reaching 100 million users in just 18 months, and today boasts well over 500 million. While the app does have the capacity to text in well—text—millions of those users are communicating in sticker-only conversations.
Sticker-only conversations aren’t really all that new. They were popular in the 4th millennium BCE, only then it was called cuneiform. And ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs—stickers of the Pharaohs—were in vogue for thousands of years, plastered on everything from tombs to temples. Even today, if you want to text like Cleopatra, you can download an app.
No disrespect to Cleo, but I’m partial to words. Not a plague of them, just the right number to communicate efficiently without resorting to a weeping or winking bear. You can plumb the depths of specificity, and no one will ever mistake you for a 12-year-old girl.
Stickerspeak is a texting and social media thing—for now—arguably no worse than substituting numbers 4 letters. But imagine a future (or a manga cartoon) in which, thanks to a sequestered education budget, reading and writing are replaced by cartoon animals emoting and gesturing the week’s vocabulary?
So what can you do to demur the Hello Kittyization of the written word? Just say no to stickers. Look up the next word that has you stumped. Use spellcheck. And keep on writing—or text your copywriter (but no emoji, please).
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