Did you know that 90% of all online users use emoji to communicate? These little emoticons–whether it be facial expressions, clinking beer mugs or adorable animals–have completely changed the way we communicate. Our society is beginning to use fewer words to convey emotion and connect with one another. The simplicity of the emoji keyboard and their ubiquity is undeniable.
But recently, society has taken note of what emoji are available to the public and how they can influence our language and even enforce societal roles. Just like we have become more aware of how colloquialisms, slang and vernacular can contribute to the oppression of a people, emoji needed an upgrade.
New emoji will be rolled out to iOS and Android users soon and they contain some noteable differences. The current handgun will be replaced with a neon squirt gun. The developers of the app have clearly been paying attention to the media and general societal movement around the conversation of guns. It may not be a direct effort to get political, but it is an effort to make the emoji more accessible.
Additionally, the female and male emoji have posed quite a problem for people. Males were shown as police officers, detectives, emergency personnel, surfing, riding a bike, swimming, weightlifting, playing basketball and horseback riding. The females were brides, princesses, dancing girls and getting their hair cut. You can see the problem here. The new emoji promises to roll out women in professional roles, reflecting the real-world push to create more roles for women in leadership, government and beyond. Don’t worry; we’re not going to pull out the stats about how many women graduate with higher honors and more degrees than male counterparts.
So, what does all this mean? It means that, like verbal and written language, emoji is undergoing a transformation to better reflect the society that uses them. They are not seen as frivolous characters, but a meaningful type of communication where representation matters. And that, to us, is a beautiful thing.