Do you often use the red heart? The skull? The upside-down smiley face? What do you use these emojis, and others, to convey?
In “The Year in Emojis,” Anna P. Kambhampaty writes about the most popular emojis of 2021:
The pandemic has affected nearly all aspects of modern life, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat to how we spend our time. There is one thing, however, that has remained almost unchanged: the emojis we send.
According to data from the Unicode Consortium, the organization that maintains the standards for digital text, nine of the 10 most used emojis from 2019 (which was the last time they released data) also ranked among the top 10 this year. The red heart emoji held the No. 2 spot, and the tears of joy emoji ranked No. 1, despite members of Gen Z deeming it uncool (along with side parts and skinny jeans).
To the people who create and study emojis, the persistence of tears of joy, also known as the laughing-crying emoji, comes as no surprise.
“It speaks to how many people use emoji. If emoji were a purely Gen Z thing, then you wouldn’t see it so highly ranked,” said Alexander Robertson, an emoji researcher at Google. “Because of the sheer number of people using emoji, even if one group thinks something is lame, they have to be a really big group to affect these statistics.”
And it makes sense that Gen Z would think that certain emojis aren’t hip, said Jennifer Daniel, an emoji subcommittee chair for Unicode and a creative director at Google. It’s part of the “teenage experience of creating a sense of subculture where there’s a right way and a wrong way of behaving.”
Plus, Ms. Daniel noted, there is a “spectrum” of laughter that can be expressed through text: “There’s light chuckling. There’s acknowledgment laughter, which is just a marker of empathy.” Using emojis, such as the skull face (“I’m dead”) or crying face (uncontrollable tears of laughter), can help to illustrate that range.