Thousands and thousand of years ago people used pictures to represent words and ideas. This is why Chinese is such a bastard to learn. There are literally hundreds of thousands of pictures. Ancient Egypt improved on the picture system, cutting down the number of symbioses to a mere two thousand. Egypt's neighbors were like, yeah this is cool! And we can function with even fewer symbols.
Then Egypt's neighbor's neighbors were like, "Yo, neighbors. We can get this down to twenty-six letters that can be combined to make words which can represent ideas and shit."
And that was the year the word was big news-- you know, as cool a concept as the Ipad. Speaking of the Ipad, around the time it was revealed and the smart phone became the thing, symbols started reappearing everywhere.
My account began to look like this
So all across the world, everybody was all aboard on the icon effect. The more icons the merrier. Sure, the same icon on one site didn't/doesn't exactly take you to the same content on another, but hey icon not find.
And so today's language is changing, not only in the traditional sense of adding new slang, new words (muggle anyone) but also with icons and emoticons. If you live abroad (ahem, South Korea) you might even find yourself wondering what do all these butt faces mean?