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What is an emoji? An emoticon?

Emoticons 

The emoticon :)—a colon followed by a parenthesis—is a visual representation of a smiley face turned sideways.
Although an emoticon may look like a smile, a frown or any number of facial expressions, it doesn’t represent a face, as many internet users assume. It’s actually intended to convey a feeling (“I’m happy,” or “just joking”).
This meaning is evident even in the first emoticon, credited to Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University. In a 1982 e-mail, Fahlman suggested :-) as a “joke marker” to indicate wisecracks or sarcasm in text communication. In this legendary e-mail, he also used the first instance of the frown emoticon :-(.   Source

What is an emoji?

Android KitKat Emojis
There is a subtle difference between emojis and emoticons expressed here by Omoroso Daprime: Emoticons are pictorial representations of facial expressions and it is usually composed of punctuation marks.
Emojis are ideograms or smileys used in japanese electronic messages and web pages. They are not used to express emotions. An example of an emoji is a 'thumbs up' icon while that of an emoticon is 'sad face' icon.

Why are emoticons so popular?

In her article, Why I Joined the Smiley Face Cult, Laura Freeman suggests an intriguing explanation for the surge in emoji use:

My theory is that women have adopted cloyingly sweet emoji as protection against the often nasty, combative, bullying character of social media. Hearts and stars are an antidote to 140-character shouting and trolling. source


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