Emojis — the life of our daily conversations, the ice breakers, and our representations— have now reached a whole new level in the online world. Sure, we use them to make our conversations more lively or use them as a substitute to words when we don’t know what to say, but now they have come to embed themselves in our daily communication.

Flashback: Remember the days of MSN? Where expressing sadness meant one universal sad emoticon unlike the hundred types of sad faces we have on our smartphones today. Or when a heart on BBM meant the classic red one, unlike the several different shapes and colours emojis have offered us? Emoticons used to be simple and classic, but now these emojis have become complex and maybe even more accurate toward reflecting our true emotions as we communicate.

Left: MSN Emoticons. Right: BlackBerry Messenger Emoticons.

Now here’s where it got political — when Apple decided to add more skin tones to these emojis, or when more flags have now made it to our emoji list.

Right: Diverse flags of different countries. Left: Image of the different skin tones of emojis — from yellow (null) to diversity.

We tend to overlook these aspects of our daily communication, only because we underestimate its power to represent the various ethnicities and even religion. There are even church, ka’aba and buddhist temple emojis now.

Types of emojis that signify the diversity of religion through religious symbols and entities.

Just last month in September, a 15-year-old Saudi girl, Rayouf AlHumedhi, proposed an emoji of a female wearing the headscarf to represent Muslim women, gender equality and rights to The Unicode Consortium (BBC News, 2016). She did it because she firmly believed that emojis are ubiquitous and that even other ethnic/religious groups were being represented, such as the emoji of the man wearing a turban. Her message has even reached news sites like AJ+ and BBC News.

Another interesting point in this equation is how the pistol gun emoji has turned into a water gun emoji. This action was a response to the negative message it could be sending in respect to violence.CNN (2016) has even reported a number of other weapon emojis being taken down due to serious incidents that took place as a result. Examples include adolescents in the United States being charged and arrested for using these emojis in offensive and threatening messages on their social media.

Left: Latest water gun emoji. Right: Pistol emoji, suspended from Apple’s emojis.

This raises a strong and interesting point on how technology is representing us and driving our society. They’ve become more than just happy, sad and crying faces — but a mere representation of our identities. These updates can only proceed to surprise us with what the next group of emojis that will arise in the upcoming software update.

References:
BBC News (2016). Headscarf emoji proposed by 15-year-old Saudi girl. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37358719

CNN (2016). Apple replaces the pistol emoji with a water gun. Available: http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/01/technology/apple-pistol-emoji/

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