Ever wonder whether pictures are replacing words as the millennial generation's de facto mode of communication? Well, as the The New York Times pointed out on Friday, Instagram software engineer Thomas Dimson has posted a thought-provoking blogpost on internal trends in emoji usage on the image-sharing app. According to the report, emoji characters now comprise somewhere between 40 and 45 percent of all Instagram captions, up from around 10 percent in 2012.
Now, that metric won't be so jaw-dropping for regular users of the app, but it correlates with another trend that will: the rise of emojis on Instagram has been correlated across the board with a decline of popular internet slang words like "xoxo," "omg," "muah," "babe," "bae," "lol," "haha," and "hehe." Too soon to say what that means for the future of the written word, but it's possible that as we continue to get more and more creative with emojis, we're getting less innovative with slang—and that could be bad news for the evolution of the English language in general, since neologisms have long been our primary means of lexical innovation. Check out the below graphic for a visual illustration Instagram's findings, and read a recent essay from The FADER's Ruth Saxelby on the upsides of image-based communication here.