Even if you don't regularly send friends pictures of hearts and smiley faces in text messages, chances are you've received a message containing an emoji. Or you've accidentally opened the emoji keyboard while trying to press that tiny microphone button on your iPhone.
Emojis can seem daunting to use when your phone gets filled up with new ones like the batch released last week by the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit group that approves and releases them. The group of 72 emojis includes new facial expressions, hand gestures and other icons that cover topics such as food, sports and animals.
The key is to start slow. Let's take a few of them for a spin to help get you started.
Lying face: Texting isn't the most ideal way to confront someone about their lies -- unless you're blackmailing them.
So exercise a great deal of caution when sending this emoji, especially if you're talking about someone else and their lying ways. Context is everything. If it's someone you know, make sure you include the name of the person you're accusing of being a liar in any text that displays this emoji and never send it by itself or the receiver might think you're referring to them. The only exceptions to this rule? If you're talking about anyone who has ever run for public office or served on the New England Patriots coaching staff.
Be sure to watch out for text receivers who don't know you're referring to Pinocchio, the wooden puppet whose nose grew every time he told a lie. It sounds improbable. But considering the fact so many Britons googled "What is the EU?" AFTER the UK voted to leave it, it's clear there aren't as many readers around as there used to be.
Drooling face: There's an inherent risk of using this emoji because it seems to imply that drooling or even mentioning the fact that you're drooling is acceptable in polite company. That only makes sense if humanity has been overtaken in some bizarre "Planet of the Dogs" scenario.
I realize this emoji can be used to express the metaphorical concept of drooling but that doesn't make it any less disgusting. I don't want to imagine what anyone looks like when they're drooling. Yes, it's a natural human function and everyone does it on occasion, such as when they try to rinse and spit at the dentist with a lip full of Novocaine or fall asleep with their mouth open during the new "Independence Day" movie. Still, keep your drool and your drooling face emoji to yourself.
Selfie: This emoji makes me feel that the entire world has moved into some weird dimension where time folds over itself and everything we perceive to be real is inverted.
Up is down. Black is white. Dogs are cats. We can now text icons to each other that inform people we're taking selfies instead of just taking and sending the actual selfies. What's next? A text message emoji for text messages?
It's not a completely useless emoji. It's just strange that we have it. For instance, you can use it to warn your contacts you're about to take a selfie. We all know someone with a short fuse who thinks civilization is one hair away from reverting to the Stone Age when they hear words like "selfie," "twerk" and "on fleek." So this will save them one less aneurysm or more specifically, it will save me from having one less aneurysm.
Clown face: NEVER USE THIS EMOJI. EVER.
Imagine getting a text at 3 a.m. You're all alone. Your phone's buzzing jars you out of your coma. You wipe the sleep from your eyes as your pupils adjust to the sudden glow of your phone. The only thing you see on the screen is this face.
You spend the rest of the night huddled in a corner of the room clutching a baseball bat and swatting at the darkness.
Do not send this emoji to anyone under any circumstances. Its cruel smile and lifeless eyes mask an unholy soul of pure, unspeakable evil. Anyone who sends it should be tied down to a bed and visited by an old priest and a young priest.