The pandemic has affected almost every aspect of modern life, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat and how we spend our time. However, one thing has remained pretty much the same: the emojis we send.
According to the Unicode Consortium, an organization that supports digital text standards, nine of the 10 most popular emojis since 2019 (when they last published data) also made it to the top 10 this year. The emoji with the red heart took the second place, and the emoji with tears of joy took the first place, despite the fact that the representatives of Gen Z considered it not cool (along with the sides and skinny jeans).
For people who create and explore emojis, the persistence of tears of joy, also known as laugh-cry, comes as no surprise.
“It speaks volumes about how many people are using emoticons. “If emojis were exclusively a Gen Z product, you wouldn’t see them being so highly prized,” said Alexander Robertson, an emoji researcher at Google. “Because of the sheer number of people using emojis, even if one group thinks something is wrong, they have to be a really large group to influence this statistic.”
And it’s only logical that Gen Z would think some emojis are not trendy, said Jennifer Daniel, chair of the Unicode emoji subcommittee and creative director at Google. This is part of the “teenage experience of creating a sense of subculture where there is a right and wrong way of behaving.”
In addition, as Ms Daniel noted, there is a “spectrum” of laughter that can be expressed through text: “There is a light laugh. There is a grateful laugh, which is just a sign of sympathy. ” The use of emojis such as a skull face (“I’m dead”) or a crying face (uncontrollable tears of laughter) can help illustrate this range.
However, looking at one single platform may tell a slightly different story. Tears of Joy was the most popular emoji on Twitter in 2020, but this year it came in second, with crying faces taking its place, according to data obtained from Twitter. Tears of joy led to a 23% drop in usage from 2020 to 2021.
But the fact that much of the rest of the top 10 in the Unicode dataset, which spans multiple platforms and applications, has remained fairly consistent also means how flexible the current emoji set is.
“This basically means that we have what it takes to convey a wide range of expressions or even very specific concepts,” said Ms Daniel. “You don’t necessarily need Covid emoticons or vaccinations because you have a biceps, a syringe, an adhesive plaster that semantically conveys the same thing.” Ms Daniel added that at the start of the pandemic, people used the germ or virus, emoji and crown emoji to refer to Covid (in Spanish, “crown” translates to “crown”).
Syringe emoji jumped to 193rd in total usage this year, up from 282nd in 2019. The microbe also climbed from 1086 in 2019 to 477.
While the past two years have been like nothing else, the range of emotions we expressed with emojis as we relived them was still pretty much familiar.
“We did see a rise in the use of viral emoji, but not in a way that even remotely became the most commonly used emoji, because we still had something to laugh and cry about, whether due to the pandemic or not,” said Lauren Gown, co-host of the Lingthusiasm podcast and senior lecturer in linguistics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.
“Even in the midst of this massive global pandemic, which took so much of our time,” added Ms. Gown, “we still spent a lot of time congratulating each other on their birthdays, checking out or laughing at some new and unexpected element of this. slow burning oddity. “