Blurring the line between digital communication and the #realworld

There is an expression – the origins of which cannot be proven – that says “May you live in interesting times.” Lately, with the rapid development of online tools and apps and at the same time, new modes of communication to share ideas and information with one another, we certainly are living in interesting times. Here at Catchy, we’re in no way a bunch of old fuddy-duddies who are afraid of new fangled gizmos, but we do find ourselves wondering about some of the recent news that crosses our collective desks. Recently, that has included stories about the ways we communicate with one another, and more specifically the ways that our digital communications are making the seemingly unavoidable leap into the real world around us.

For starters, if you’re in the UK, you probably know about the big 500 Words competition that is part of the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2, an annual contest that invites children to submit stories of 500 words or less. That’s the easy part and the contest winners will be revealed on Friday in a live event from St. James’s Palace. Where things get interesting is found in submissions the children prepared. There were more than 120,000 submissions to the contest, and those short stories were then analysed by the Oxford University Press. As a result of their deep dive into this data, they have now dubbed “Hashtag” (you know, this symbol: #) the “children’s word of the year.” That’s right, the symbol itself is now also a word. (Actually, if you were to ask Jimmy Fallon, he might not think this is all that newsworthy – he’s been the Hashtag King for some time.)

As the BBC notes in their story this week, “The use of the hashtag symbol # to add an extra meaning or comment at the end of a sentence has become commonplace.”

According to Vineeta Gupta of the Oxford University Press: “Children have extended its [#] use from a simple prefix or as a search term for Twitter to an editorial device to add drama or comment.”

Across the pond (does anyone still say that?), in New York City a start-up company plans to take our love of food emoji off the mobile screen and right into our lunch plates. Starting next month, you will be able to tweet a food emoji to a company called “Fooji” (food + emoji – get it?), and they will deliver that item to you in the real world. (Brings a whole new meaning to the idea of “meat world“.)

According to an article in Eater.com, all you have to do – after creating an account linked to your Twitter profile – is “tweet a food emoji representing what item they want for a meal (i.e. a burger, pizza, ramen) and Fooji will ‘handle the rest.’ This means they will select a local restaurant that serves the type of food requested, will pick an option that matches the emoji, and have it delivered to your door.” There is no customization in this current mode – if you pick the burger emoji, you might get a burger with pickles and onions on top, even if you despise those toppings. So, if you’re really hungry, and you’re willing to let the Fooji do the bulk of the decision-making for you, this could be the height of food-ordering convenience. You can learn more about their plans here. In a similar vein, Domino’s now lets customers order pizza via an emoji-based Tweet to them.


When it comes to stuffing our faces, actual words are becoming more and more unnecessary – but, grandma always did say not to speak with your mouth full of food …

And while these emoji-driven food ordering options are new, the use of emoji to find things in the #realworld has been available for a little more than a year now for anyone using the Yelp app on their iPhone or Android device (sorry, it doesn’t appear to work on Windows Phone). Simply insert an emoji into the search function of the Yelp app, and it will return relevant results for places near you that are associated with that emoji. We cannot promise what you will find if you do a search using the sad, crying-face emoji.

If you’d like your emoji to have a positive effect on the world around you, you could send a few Tweets for #EndangeredEmoji, which is a campaign being run by WWF to help raise funds to protect endangered species. As it happens, there are emoji representing 17 different endangered animals, and by Tweeting out one of those symbols, you will be able to also send a micro-donation (the equivalent of 0.10 euros per Tweet, which you will be asked to contribute as a voluntary donation to the charitable organization). This quick video shows more about the campaign:

Clearly, the ways we communicate – both online and in the real world – will continue to change, and the line between our virtual and physical selves will continue to blur.

For more thoughts on this subject, read our story about the evolution of emoji and our digital communication.

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