In just two decades, emoji has become ‘the fastest growing language in history’. But are there more complex implications to their popularity? With more than 92% of internet users now using emojis, and billions used every day, do the simple digital pictograms have wider implications for society, relationships and even the way we're hardwired?
No, the impact of emojis is exaggerated.Show moreShow less
The growth in emoji use is part of the much more transformative digital revolution. Emojis are impactful insofar as they enhance (or diminish) existing forms of communication. However, they have no revolutionary impact in and of themselves.
New emojis are introduced into Unicode every year. These are decided by the Unicode Consortium, which selects new images based on relevance to a global audience.
Emojis are introduced based on their relevance to global populations. They are therefore entirely context-dependent, and intended to reflect the world we live in, rather than to influence or lead it.
For example, in 2015, the Unicode Consortium shifted away from the homogenous 'white-washed' yellow skin tone. The group introduced an additional five 'skin' shades to diversify the range, and be more racially inclusive to users. This was a response to growing movements for action against racism (and other forms of discrimination) within tech.
Emojis may reflect trends in attitudes, but in popularising these they serve a much broader purpose. They popularise and spread these changing cultural attitudes by virtue of being so widely used.
[P1] New emojis are introduced annually
[P2] Emoji selection is based on how relevant they are to a global audience
[P3] Relevance is based on critical trends and attitudes that have shifted since the previous selection
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P2] Emoji selection is based on far more than world events. For example, it is also based on data around use of existing emojis and how people are using them.