Emoji — the pictogram prodigy of text-based emoticons — can be found everywhere. In less than two decades, the ideograms of modern times have become internet shorthand for emotion: They encapsulate love and heartbreak, shock and surprise, euphoria and anger, and laughter with tears of joy.

Emoji are widely used in daily communications on comment threads, Facebook and Twitter, as well as in private messages.

These ideograms are inescapable and, despite what critics say about their negative effect on language, they can leverage our online communications with nuance, subtlety and fun. They are a product of our nascent social media age, and yet their future is far from assured.