North by Northwestern

Year in Media 2015


by Julia Song

I might cry when the avocado emoji ispotentially released next June.

They’re here to stay, with more on the way.

You know you can’t 💭 back to a 🕐 when you didn’t use emojis daily in texts, on Facebook, or Instagram, and not just because you’re 🔥cely, unhealthily loyal to Thirsty Thursdays 💦 and Freaky Fridays 👻 (I hear New Year’s resolutions a calling). Unless you are a non-smartphone user, a rare specimen on campus, you’d probably be lost without the emotional faces, hearts and 12 train emojis.

The 2011 iOS 5 update first included the emoji keyboard option, aka Apple’s way of recognizing emojis as equals to the 32 languages supported on its devices. 😎 In 2015, there are an impressive 1,620 emojis supported by iOS 9.1 and 845 widely-supported emojis. I might cry when the avocado emoji is potentially released next June. Emojis have taken this affirmation and thrived into their own language: “I’ll meet you at Norbucks 😏”, “Why is Fran’s closed today 😭 😡”, “🍩 🍩 🍩”. They’re visual footnote-less footnotes. 😊

Cue the extremely legitimate Unicode Consortium, which has been creating and consolidating code for emojis across platforms since the 1990s. The group introduced racially diverse emojis through Apple’s iOS 8.3 update in April, soon followed by other platforms. The new skin colors were met with mixed reviews, with many critics noting how racially diverse emojis are unrealistic and create room for more racist comments than their absence. The company also added 32 country flags to attempt to broaden its inclusivity. Meanwhile, there are around 200 countries in the world.

These digital faces made a further dent in the physical world when The Oxford Dictionaries chose 😂 (Face With Tears of Joy) as the Word of the Year 2015, the first time a non-alphabetized “word” was chosen. Among the given reasons were cultural relevance, frequency of usage and generational currency. 💸 In fact, a website keeps track of emoji usage on Twitter (at present, 😂 has been used in 1,039,052,577 tweets). Still, a corner of the Internet exploded over the announcement. Read it and weep, y’all.

And now you can submit new emoji ideas to Unicode yourself! The guidelines are fairly intricate, but if you have time on your hands and really, really want a _____ emoji in your future, nothing can stop you – except the Unicode Consortium.

Besides stirring up racial and cultural dialogue and maddening wordsnobs, emojis are made into cushions. Marketers use emojis to cater to our text neck generation. Even Hillary Clinton attempted to talk to us through emojis this year. 😅 Whether you are a fan of the array of colorful images, emojis are carving out their place in our online-centric society. If you’re going through a quarter-life crisis and need a reminder of selfhood, peep your list of recently used emojis. Like your Netflix history, it might reveal more about your personality than you’re comfortable admitting. (a few of mine: 😏 😌 🌞 😎 😭 💩 💕 🎉 🌵)


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