During this year’s Pride Month, Adalberto Robles did not lose his words, but lost his emojis.
Robles, 34, a customer service representative from Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States, who uses pronouns both he and he, had the pride and trans pride flag emojis available. But what they wanted was a progress LGBTQ pride flag, a 2018 redesign of the traditional rainbow pride flag with a chevron symbol with black, brown, pink, white and blue stripes.
The flag was created by designer Daniel Quasar, based in Portland, Oregon, as a gesture to black and brown people, as well as people who identify as trans.
– danielquasar (@danielquasar) June 5, 2021
Robles believes that emoji options should be more inclusive and that the mark of progress would be a step in that direction. To that end, Robles has created a Change.org petition to add the emoji, which has garnered nearly 200 signatures so far.
Robles is not the only person who is dissatisfied with the current slate of more than 3,500 emoji options in the Unicode standard. An additional 217 will be released throughout 2021 under Emoji version 13.1, including a bearded woman and couples with different skin tones.
But even though emoji usage is at an all-time high (Emojipedia statistics estimate that more than one in five tweets contains an emoji) Many people and companies believe that the current selection does not adequately represent their lived experience.
A 2019 poll of 1,000 people by software company Adobe found that 76% of emoji users wanted more emoji available and 73% of emoji users wanted more customization options to reflect their personal appearances.
Our emojis, ourselves
Emojis are more than a digital shorthand for our emotional states; they also represent who we are, in our core.
“Emojis are a powerful tool for computer-mediated communication,” Isaac Tourgeman, a neuropsychologist and professor of psychology at Albizu University in Doral, Florida, told Al Jazeera. “Add context and tone”.
Tourgeman adds that in a digital world, emojis have become a powerful substitute for body language, tone, and facial expressions.
The use of emoji can also have real-world implications: studies have found that the use of emojis in interactions does improve doctor-patient communication and may even serve as a tool to assess certain mental health disorders. This may be why it is more crucial for users to see themselves and their experiences represented in their emoji options.
Emojis have also become a shortcut to our global society that can transcend language, which can lead to cultural confusion.
For example, how reported by Fast Company, the Unicode Consortium received multiple proposals for an emoji of people kneeling on one knee to represent the Black Lives Matter protests taking place in the United States.
But the proposal was rejected, probably because it was too broad and confusing as to the “why” behind the knees.
Was it an emoji to protest, to rest, or for a religious or cultural custom? This specificity, as an emoji can be unique and universal, can be a challenge for a proposed emoji to get final approval.
Powerful marketing symbols
Emojis have also become big business. The Unicode Consortium is a non-profit corporation dedicated to developing and maintaining “software internalization standards,” which includes the Unicode standard that deals with “text representation in all modern software products.”
This Unicode standard is why a smiling face looks the same on all devices and in all countries, and on a Unicode Emoji subcommittee. review proposals and add emojis continuously.
A proposal template is available to the public and it is recommended that people submit proposals.
Individuals can also create requests and groups to further promote their emojis and provide evidence that potential emojis have an audience, such as Robles.
This democratic process, however, is not without its challenges.
In 2020, the Unicode consortium provisionally approved a van emoji, after which the emoji subcommittee learned that the car company Ford had hired a marketing company to create the proposal.
Although this practice is permitted, the Unicode Consortium prefers disclosure. Other companies, such as Butterball and Taco Bell, have launched their own petitions, with Taco Bell scoring their desired emoji, but the Thanksgiving turkey on a plate remains elusive.
Non-profit organizations have also followed the trend. House of Kurds, a non-profit platform representing the Kurdish people, is currently requesting an emoji flag from Kurdistan, with its petition collecting more than 90,000 signatures.
Here to be
As emojis are increasingly adopted in everyday life (the Adobe survey found that more than 60% of people used emojis in work environments) it is likely that characters will continue to be more central to our lifes.
“I don’t see emojis as a trend, I see them as our language really evolving,” business trend expert Dan Levine told Al Jazeera. “The world has become much less formal.”
Levine also believes that this language will continue to change in the next decade, and this may open the floodgates for new emoji options.
But others stress that emojis are not a new way to communicate.
“Look at the cave drawings,” Tourgeman pointed out. “In many ways, drawing and characters have been our first ways to communicate. We are visual beings and history tends to repeat itself. “