Warning: this is not quiz, nor is this a listicle. In an ironic twist, this post will require you to read full sentences about a massive cultural shift toward the written picture, a.k.a the emoji.

How fluent are you?

If you’re 18, I’d bet that emoji is basically your first language. Your captions need nothing but a peach emoji to rack up 175 likes. Nevermind the fact that the peach emoji doesn’t seem to have anything to do with that harmless #selfie you posted wearing new lip gloss. Was it peach flavored perhaps? We’ll never know.

If you’re 25, you’re bilingual. You mix words (although not too many) with emojis, which really enhance your caption game. Gone apple picking? Post that candid apple picking Kodak moment with a big ole #basic, alongside the celebration hands and apple emojis. (If you’re not sure what basic means in this context, imagine a Converse-wearing 20something girl sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks while picking said apples in a flannel button down and army green jacket. After her rendevous  through the orchard, she’ll bake an apple pie using a recipe she found on Pinterest. Do you see her now? Her name is Amanda, or Katie, or Jessica.) You’ll get around 35 likes on that pic, but have neared 75 on a good day.

No matter where you fall on the emoji-use spectrum, the real trend is this: everyone is using them. Your mom, too. According to new Instagram data, the proof is in the caption. Over 40% of Instagram posts now include an emoji, which may have prompted the photo-driven social platform to allow the hashtagging of emojis. That means you can search by your favorite icon. Not to mention, there are more than ever: last month, Unicode 8.0 launched an updated set of emojis with varied skin tones, among other new symbols, and if all goes as planned, Unicode 9.0 will add dozens more to the mix next year.

So what’s the draw about emojis? There’s something comical about them. They’re also perfectly vague. They can be a conversation starter or a polite conversation ender. They say everything and nothing all at once. And deciphering them is half the fun. (Misinterpretted emoji texts are a story for another day.)

If you’re unsure about emojis, you best kick your uncertainty to the curb. The pesky little symbols are venturing beyond texts and photo captions and into online copy and emails. They’re even grounds for t-shirt designs, costumes and home décor. (The centerpiece of my best friend’s couch is an emoji pillow. The exact emoji will remain nameless.)

The bottom line: emojis are becoming a facet of our culture and the way we communicate, and Millennials are driving this trend. If you need any more proof, just take a look at custom keyboards from hit comedy Broad City to the Lone Star State (I’m downloading it just for the taco) to NCAA teams (Go Irish).

In my moments of deep and introspective thought, I have wondered: are we regressing to hieroglyphics? King Tut may have been ahead of his time.

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