Are You Fluent In Emoji?
If you’re not, I can pretty much guarantee that the teens in your youth group are!
Over the past ten years or so I’ve noticed that the teens I work with have less and less social skills. They don’t chat on the phone with their friends for 3 hours every night like I did as a teen, they text or instagram instead. I’ve seen the changes in their basic social interaction with each other, but mostly I have noticed it when a new teen comes into the group, or when I ask them to have a small group discussion, or when they are doing something for our church and they don’t know how to make small talk or speak to adults or even start a conversation. Teens are not communicating personally or face to face in the same way….they are using technology to do it for them.
I knew a while back I wanted to do a youth night on this topic, but it wasn’t until I was browsing through Target one day this summer that it hit me. I was walking past a rack of clothes and spotted a shirt that had the words “I Speak Emoji” printed on it. Ah, ha!!! That’s it!
My meeting consisted of a fun activity using emoji’s and asking the teens to come up with emoji sentences or stories which the rest of us had to guess at as a game. Then, we had a wonderful discussion about how we communicate and the importance of being personal and close to the people in our lives and about how doing so would lead us to a closer more personal relationship with God.
Below is the outline of my meeting….
What You’ll Need
Emojis Printed and Cut Out (Separate into Categories so they can find what they need easily)
Blank Paper & Glue Sticks
A few emoji stories or examples to show them
(optional- a projector and ready made emoji guessing game which you can make up yourself or find online)
The week before my meeting, I enlarged and printed EVERY regular emoji. It took forever, but it was well worth it. Basically, I googled and found a photo/document with every emoji on it. I copy and pasted and enlarged them in groups of 10 rows so they were about 2 inches x 2 inches when I printed them out. Then, I cut each one out individually and grouped them into categories. (Smileys, People, Animals, Numbers, Food, Holidays, Hands, Culture, Flags, Technology, Buildings, Places, etc.) I ended up with about 30 categories and the purpose of this was just to make it easier for my teens to find what they needed quicker when they made up their senteces/stories.
How I Ran My Meeting
I began by asking my teens if they had texted someone that day and used an emoji in the text. (100% of them had.) Then I asked them to raise their hands if they thought they were fluent in emoji. (Almost all of them did!) Then I began showing the teens some pre-made emoji stories and sentences. I had planned to have them actually play a game using my projector and computer, but my projector wasn’t cooperating so I had to just give them a few I had printed out earlier that week. Here is an example…
It’s “Let It Go” from the movie ‘Frozen’. If you’re my age, the amazement comes not just in the ability to complete a whole song in emoji, but in the actual knowledge of every emoji out there and which ones to use! I didn’t count when I was preparing for my meeting, but I’m willing to bet there are at least 600 ‘typical’ ones. This doesn’t include special ones people download into their phones (like the awesome POPEMOJI’s)!
Once they guessed what I showed them, I challenged them to each make up 1 sentence or story for the rest of us to guess. I gave them about 15 minutes to do so. Once they figured what they would do and found their cut out emoji’s, they had to use the glue sticks to glue them to a piece of paper. Once this was done, each teen showed the rest of the group their sentence/story and we all tried to guess what it was. It was hilarious! I was impressed with the ones who were able to guess correctly and I was also impressed with the emoji knowledge that my teens had to make up some unique stories. Here are two examples.
This one is a story which says, “Grier (#7) and Coach McElwain make a great Gator Football team. They are going to be on top soon and the SEC Champs! And, they are adults and old enough to celebrate their win with a beer!”
(Side bar….The Florida Gators won a big game the night before and this teen is a Gator Fan who was extremely excited which is why this was his story the next day.) Pretty creative, huh?!
Once all the stories were guessed, I moved on to my discussion. I highlighted that Pope Francis spoke in the 20/20 special (which we watched as a youth group the week before Pope Francis’ trip) about how he wished for the youth to not walk alone in life and about how it was important to be close to people to understand them better. The discussion questions I used are below…I basically used them to lead the discussion and get the teens talking….
- How many of you use emojis when you text 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% of the time?
- Why do you think emojis are so popular?
- Do you think there is a downside to emojis and abbreviations like OMG, LOL, BTW, etc.?
- Does using text/emojis change the way we communicate?
- Is it harder or easier to communicate with emojis and abbreviations and texting?
- How many of you talk on the phone (vocally) with your friends?
- How many of you talk on the phone (vocally) with family members?
- How many of you have texted someone in your house instead of going into another room to talk to them? (Mom, what time is dinner?)
- How many of your parents have texted you in your house instead of coming to where you are to tell you something? (Dinner is ready! Take out the trash! Hurry up, you’re going to be late for school!)
- Do anyone’s parents have a ‘no cell phone / ipad’ rule at home during dinner or family time? Do you like that rule? Why or Why Not?
- How many of you have had a conversation on the phone (vocally) with a friend this week? What about?
- Why did you talk to your friend on the phone instead of texting?
- Why do you choose to text instead of talk on the phone?
- How do you think your relationships would be different if you lived in the ‘dark ages’ with no cell phones, tablets, texting, instant messaging, etc.? Better or worse? Why?
- Is a conveinence something that we should allow to change our social interaction and relationships with friends/other people?
- Do you think you would be on time more often if you didn’t have a cell phone?
- When was the last time you had a phone conversation with someone in your family? What about?
- When was the last time you had a phone conversation with a friend? What about?
- How many of you think that you would be closer to your friends if you spoke face to face more?
- How many of you feel like you could be or need to be closer to God?
- How can being close to other people/friends/humans teach us to be closer to God?
- What are ways we can learn/practice being closer to God?
These discussion questions lead to plenty more as we went along, but these were the pre-planned ones I had written down.
HOW IT WENT
It was a great night and the teens had a blast making up their emoji sentences. We had a wonderful discussion about being more personal and the importance of face to face interaction and relationships with others and it was a wonderful follow up to Pope Francis’ visit and messages which we had discussed in the two weeks prior to this night.
God Bless You All & Your Ministries!