Little kids love ’em.

Middle-agers love ’em.

A 66-year-old friend of mine who just discovered them is head over heels.

Believe it or not, the first use of the word “emoji” or “emojis” in my favorite newspaper didn’t occur until January 2014. In just 3½ years the word — and the usage — has nearly become ubiquitous.

Aside from my 93-year-old father, I don’t think I know anyone who has never used an emoji. But for the benefit of folks like my dad, an emoji is a tiny electronic drawing of a face, object, animal, weather feature or just about anything you can think of, the most common being various types of smiley faces.

Emojis are used most often with smartphone texts, partly for entertainment but also to help convey the tone of a message that might not be as clear as it would be in a face-to-face conversation.

A glance at my iPhone shows that my most-used emoji (top left in the “frequently used” section) is the guy who is laughing so hard he’s crying. I guess I must think the world is funnier than I thought I thought it was.

The woman who sits nearest to me at work also uses the crying laughy guy the most.

By contrast, the man who sits nearest to me wears out the ghosty-face guy. Not sure what that says about him, but I’m not going to speculate because, well, he sits right next to me and I don’t want to start getting a bunch of frowny-face guys — or maybe even the disgusting-but-oft-used pile of poop with eyes in it.

You can get phone apps for almost any kind of emoji. At one point, I may or may not have downloaded a collection of “adult” emojis.

Some sets of emojis can be personalized to resemble your own face and body. You select from a wide variety of hair colors and styles, facial features and so on. My little Bitmoji Bob has been wearing a Cavs jersey lately. (OK, I might have too much time on my hands.)

The massive emoji collection that now comes preloaded on iPhones includes six skin colors for every emoji that contains a person or body part.

As noted in a recent NPR report, emojis have transcended phones and computers and today can be found on things like pillows, slippers, backpacks, light switches, perfume, speakers, key chains, bracelets, purses … even soap and ChapStick.

The first emoji reportedly was created in Japan in 1998 or 1999. The plural of the Japanese word is actually “emoji,” but Americans have decided to add an “S.” Just because we can.

Smiley face.

These things are used most often when texting. And with 77 percent of the population now owning smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center, emojis are flying around faster than cursewords in a comedy club.

Sometimes I think emojis are part of the reason smartphone penetration has more than doubled in only six years, from a mere 35 percent in 2011.

The biggest growth in smartphone use has been with the 50- to 64-year-old crowd, where 74 percent have jumped on the bandwagon, up 16 percent in only two years. Even among people age 65 and up, usage has expanded to 42 percent.

But we digress. Sorry. I was distracted by the train whistle that sounds whenever I get a new text, which often includes an emoji.

Unfortunately, too much of this can wear you down.

Take Facebook. Please.

Not long ago, Facebookers only had the ability to “like” somebody else’s post. Now they have the option of “liking” it, “loving” it, “laughing” at it, being “surprised” by it, ?“crying” about it or being completely honked off about it (the dreaded yellow-face-turned-mostly-red, with tight lips and a major frown).

Decisions, decisions. If someone’s relative has died, do you “like” what the posting person has written about the deceased, or “cry” about the death? If you hit “love,” could that be misconstrued as celebrating the person’s demise?

Miss Manners really needs to weigh in on this.

It may please you to no end — it certainly did me — to learn there is a nonprofit group responsible for maintaining and releasing new emojis, and it’s called the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee.

If I could, I would so put the laughing-till-he-cries guy here.

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31