You’ve Come a Long Way, Emoji!

Filed Under: Youth & Family


Mary McIlrath

Senior Vice President, C+R Alum

Two years ago, YouthBeat® first wrote about World Emoji Day, which happens every July 17th. It falls on that date because the iOS-based emoji for the word “calendar” displays that date.  What a fine example of life imitating art!  This year, we have a lot to celebrate about how far emojis have progressed since they first appeared on iOS in 2008.  Since then, it seems like nearly everyone has stopped using more primitive emoticons like this one: 🙂 

Some might say that emojis are the language of today’s youth. By the time American youth are teens, 8 in 10 personally own a cell phone, a vast majority of which are smartphones*.  Their (and your) libraries of emojis are so vast that users can have entire conversations with pictograms alone. One of our favorite examples of an emoji-only pastime is “guess the movie from only emojis.” Try this one: pig spider (we think it’s an easy one, but email us if you need a clue).

Fun fact: did you know that the release of new emojis is governed by the Unicode Consortium?  Its voting members include all of the big tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Huawei. Each year, they solicit ideas from the public on which new emojis should be created for the following year, then curate a limited list (well, by limited, we mean just over 100 or up to 200) for worldwide release.

What we at YouthBeat® have found particularly uplifting in the last two years is the number of new emojis representing people of a range of skin tones, as well as genders. The list of new emojis for 2020 includes a transgender flag, accordion, roller skate, and our favorite series, parents feeding babies.  The reason we find those especially relevant is that some of the oldest members of Generation Z, who are turning 23 this year, are already becoming young parents. Gen Z has known about emojis since they were invented, so it makes complete sense that they’d want to see their life stage reflected in the emoji menu.

Not to be left out, Facebook in April 2020 released two new “care” emojis, useful especially to show concern for others during the COVID-19 crisis and amid the charged political atmosphere of summer 2020 in America and around the world. Even LinkedIn offers a variety of emojis to spice up an otherwise lackluster-looking professional profile. 

This year’s celebrations of World Emoji Day, coming mid-COVID in the United States, will look different than those of years past.  In 2018, fans earned a Guinness Book World Record for the largest-ever gathering of people wearing emoji faces. That sort of gathering wouldn’t be prudent today, but you can still celebrate these game-changers in their natural virtual habitat. If you’re inspired to learn more, visit World Emoji Day’s website for coverage of prior World Emoji Day celebrations, instructions for starting your own virtual Emoji Party, and plenty of fun facts.  

Feeling emoji inspired? Share your favorites with us on Twitter @YouthBeatSpeaks! #WorldEmojiDay

*Source: YouthBeat Total Year 2019

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