The Evolution of Nonverbal Communication Online

The Evolution of Nonverbal Communication Online

Nonverbal communication is a common element of everyday language. It represents communication without words via physical cues such as gestures, facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice to clarify messages’ sentiment and feel. However, this is primarily applicable in offline communication.

In the digital world, nonverbal communication transpires digital conversations via digital expression tools such as stickers or emoticons. The visual cues help users understand the tone and purpose of the message, simplifying conversations overall.

This blog post focuses on the evolution of digital nonverbal communication. In particular, digital expression tools.

What are Digital Expression Tools?

Digital expression tools are visual communication signals common in online communication. Overall, they work as nonverbal communication cues and help users express messages more clearly. But how did they originate?

The Origin of Digital Expressing Content

As the name suggests, digital expression tools are intrinsically connected to the age of technology. Still, many people defend that the origin of today’s digital expressing content goes back to the 1800s. In particular, when one of President Lincoln’s speeches was transcripted and published in a newspaper.

In a section of the speech, the journal depicted the applause and shouts from the audience with the following line: “(applause and laughter ;).” The added semicolon before the parenthesis has made many see what we today call a “winking face” emoticon. However, numerous historians have discredited the situation as a mere typo and not the actual birth of expression tools used in today’s digital communication.

From Emoticons to Stickers: The Historical Timeline of Nonverbal Communication Online

1. Emoticon

The birth of digital expression tools was first introduced in 1982 when Scott Elliott Fahlman first created the emoticon.

The phenomenon took place after many students misunderstood several publications on the Carnegie Mellon University bulletin boards. In particular, when a professor’s joke involving mercury spillage at the campus facilities caused alarm within the student community.

To prevent further agitation over publications on the university’s boards, Scott Elliott Fahlman suggested a solution to distinguish humorous posts. Notably, he advised adding “:-)” in the title of publications meant to be intended as humoristic and “:-( ” in the title of publications designed to be taken seriously.

This exchange quickly became popularized in universities, leading to the official invention of emoticons.

2. Emoji

Seventeen years after the emoticon invention, the emoji was first introduced in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita in Japan.

The word emoji derives from Japanese and means “picture character.” The concept came to Kurita’s mind during the development of i-mode – a mobile internet platform of the Japanese Carrier NTT DoCoMo. The platform allowed users to communicate via email. However, users were only able to send 250 characters at a time. To ensure users could convey their messages in such a short character space, Kurita proposed creating in-message pictograms to facilitate communication. This led to the creation of 176 icons which set the foundation for today’s emojis – ranging from facial expressions to hand signs and other symbols.

After such creation, the adoption of emojis quickly spread in Japan. Nevertheless, unlike emoticons, worldwide adoption was slower in time.

It took over a decade to standardize and incorporate emojis in Unicode. Still, only after Apple and Google included the expression features in their platforms in 2011 and 2013, respectively, did the usage of emojis reach mainstream audiences worldwide.

3. Stickers

After the rise of emojis in daily communication, stickers emerged as the new nonverbal communication tool online. 

Stickers were first introduced in 2011 in South Korean messaging apps as a merge between emoji and anime-style cartoon characters. Like the emoji predecessor, the creation came to be a way to reduce long text messages, and it quickly penetrated world markets as the new standard of modern communication. But how?

The birth of digital stickers bridged the gap in online conversations in five different ways:

  • Diversity: Unlike emojis or emoticons, stickers are diverse. The broad range of characters and sticker packs available make the usage and appeal of digital stickers more relevant – as users can express themselves in a more unique and personalized way. 
  • Convenience: Unlike emojis or emoticons, stickers incorporate text expressions, allowing conversations to be faster and less convoluted.
  • Engagement: Unlike emojis or emoticons, digital stickers can be animated, making the tone and experience of online conversations more fun and entertaining. 
  • Straightforwardness: Unlike emojis or emoticons, stickers are more straightforward. Due to the wide variety of artists and digital sticker content available, stickers can deliver expressions and reactions more accurately. Naturally, this contributes to messages being more concise and tone appropriate.
  • Versatility: Unlike emojis or emoticons, digital stickers go beyond messaging. From live streams to video calls, stickers can add to online communication in many different ways. 

Altogether these five reasons have contributed to the rise of stickers in digital communication as the new present and future digital expression tool.

The Evolution of Stickers

When it comes to digital stickers as a nonverbal communication tool, progress doesn’t stay still either. With the rise of popularity, stickers now come in different variations beneficial for several types of apps and business models. Let’s dive more into stickers for messages, videos, and profiles.

1. Messaging Stickers

Digital Stickers

Messaging stickers are a must-have add-on feature for every app with chats and messages. Whether your app is a messenger, dating app, or a collaboration tool, you are a part of this nonverbal digital communication world.

Having messaging stickers in your app will positively affect your app performance and help provide your users more enjoyable experience. As a result, they will spend more time in your app, raising your engagement and retention rates.

At Stipop, we provide over 270,000 animated and still stickers localized into 25 languages to ensure your users have the right tools to communicate better regardless of their location, so your app can go global.

2. Camera Stickers

Digital Stickers

When it comes to nonverbal communication, we no longer use stickers only while sending text messages. As video communication is getting more and more common, stickers for camera-powered apps are also gaining popularity.

A camera sticker is a digital sticker that interacts with in-app video features. Camera stickers are ideal for desktop, web, and mobile applications with video calls, live streams, and gaming content. But how do they work?

In video calls, camera stickers give users a more personalized and fun experience when talking to others. From professional to friendly settings, camera stickers allow users to add new visual communication to their talks. This enhances communication in general as users can transmit their emotions and reactions via effective and engaging sticker content.

In live streams, camera stickers allow users to react, donate, and engage with the streaming content in real-time. Unlike basic chat features in live streaming platforms, this gives streamers a better understanding of the audience engagement and preferred topics – as viewers can reply to questions or topics during the stream with sticker reactions.

At Stipop, we provide a variety of camera stickers that improves both video calls and live stream experience, allowing users to communicate in a more entertaining way resulting in better user experience and retention rates.

3. Profile stickers

Digital Stickers

Profile stickers are avatar icons used in users’ app profiles. They are another way to incorporate digital stickers in online platforms and allow users to remain anonymous online or customize their in-app experience.

Profile stickers are a helpful tool for forums and communities. When it comes to forums, communities, and Q&A platforms, having profile stickers can provide users the security and comfort of asking personal questions online. Such a tool allows users to feel safer when talking online, being more open and honest, and have more freedom in replying, providing a more secure and tolerant environment for users to interact and communicate online.

At Stipop, we offer a diverse collection of profile stickers that help users protect their identities. The number of stickers available allows users to customize their profile with their favorite stickers.


Nonverbal communication online has developed significantly throughout the years. From simple emoticons to animated stickers, online communication has gained expression and life.

Digital stickers are the present and future of nonverbal communication online that are already can be used across various apps and features.

Stipop provides the ultimate answer to digital content, with sticker solutions suitable for different app features and business models.

To start using Stipop API and SDK today, visit the Stipop dashboard. For further content, please visit Stipop Blog.