Emojis are everywhere. They began to sneak into our messages in 2010 and slowly took over. Now, a message without one seems incomplete. While they were supposed to relay an emotion or express short-hand, they have quickly become overused and as a result, created confusion. Communication moves rapidly and we demand timesavers when expressing ourselves. The problem is that little pictures don’t always apply to long-form ideas and concepts. How many times has attempted emoji or text interpretation only left us more perplexed? A smiley face pops up on your screen – is it sarcastic or genuine? Is this an angry or happy face?
To balance the world of emojis, it is no surprise that voice is becoming more prevalent. All messaging apps have integrated voice notes in their platforms and they’re gaining traction among consumers. The reason is simple: voice transmits the emotion and authenticity that text lacks. Voice is personal and direct; it relays sentiment and people can feel so deeply they get goosebumps, depending on the context. Voice is authentic; an emoji is an emblem.
Like emojis, audio is about to infiltrate social networks and messaging
Audio is regaining its rightful place in the social media landscape after being ignored for a long time. This trend will be driven by hardware innovation on one side and by new audio platform offerings on the other. We’re listening more and viewing static text less. We’ll still fire off emojis or post pictures in the millions, but we’ll combine these visuals with the blended approach of using an audio clip when necessary. It is this combination that will prove to be a potent tandem.
Part of the fuel to this shift in medium are the major recent consumer tech innovations within audio and voice: smart speakers, AirPods, Apple Car Play, and Android Auto, among others. The smart speaker market is growing at a rate of 48% annually and will reach 76.5 million units by 20201. Audio demand seems to be the response to our collective yearning for less screen time and our desire for the nuances and tones that voice provides. Voice notes are becoming widespread in messaging apps, podcasts are gaining traction, and my company, Riffr, has just entered the space as an audio social media platform.
Society craves human intimacy
The core reason for human communication is to create a sense of relationship; to gain intimacy, to generate emotion. Listening opens the imagination and generates a deeper connection. While it’s true that voice creates a deeper and more personal connection than text or images, it also comes with its downsides. Two parties must be available at the same time to talk on the phone and as evidenced by the explosive popularity of messaging communication – there’s no desire to go back to a time where that needed to be the case. There is value in the non-synchronous communication of sending a text or voice message so the other party can return the message on his or her own time. As we continue to rely on messaging communication, we’ll find ways to incorporate audio into them. Leaving sound-based text messages or responding to social media posts with voice are a few ways this trend is starting to take off.
We want to connect with others but we are tired of the screen. Yet, audio has the benefit of being consumed without generating distraction. Listening is intentional and requires engagement without demanding full attention. Audio has intrinsic qualities unmatched by other media. It relays authenticity while it allows our thoughts to flow.
The future and how audio and visual will merge
The evolution will be a merger of audio, visual and text like branches intertwining around one another in harmony. As a unified force, this powerful combo will make communication of the future more encompassing. Emojis intend to clarify yet the message sent is not always what’s understood by the receiver. It’s when images, text and voice combine that people will close the gaps of confusing communication.
We can challenge ourselves as we’re consuming content to take a break from staring at the screen and rely on audio more in certain circumstances. We can ask ourselves, are we fair to our friends when we send a confusing emoji? Moreover, will sending a voice message help with clarity, tone and underlying nuances of a specific conversation? If so, it’s an opportunity to widen the focus beyond simple text. Although it’s not as automatic as it used to be to pick up the phone to communicate, voice still plays an important role. Stop and enjoy the return to audio. Your eyes will enjoy the break and your ears will thank you.