If Emojis Are the Modern World’s Hieroglyphics, What Message Are We Sending?

by ParentCo. November 15, 2017

illustration of young people using phones

I just checked my texts. In order of importance and most use, here are the emoji favorites:
  • Laughing face
  • Red heart
  • Peanuts
  • Two-tear crying face
  • Okay sign
  • Winking face
  • Fall leaves
  • Flexed Arm
  • Kiss face
  • Cake slice
  • High-heeled shoe
  • Surprised Face
Why the peanuts? Is it because I say “That’s nuts!” so often and my smarter-than-me phone autocorrects? Or is it because I just made chocolate peanut butter cake and told the world about it? This is as unclear as the flexed arm. My personal philosophy does not involve weightlifting, but I do wish “more power to you” to a great many people, so perhaps that explains it. The high-heeled shoe appears towards the bottom and I can guarantee you, I do not wear heels. And I have certainly never worn the featured red stiletto. But as that’s my “night on the town” symbol of choice, it falls in line with the rest. Have you ever tried searching the shoe options? There’s a boot, a running shoe, a sandal, a man’s loafer, and that’s about it other than the stiletto. So it makes sense this would be my – and most women’s – default shoe. So, what’s a girl got to do to get a sensible shoe on here? According to The Atlantic, you need to address the Unicode Consortium, which sounds like something from Star Wars, but is actually the committee which gathers to approve all emojis before they can enter the general lexicon. Once accepted, the new emojis will then get pushed out to Apple and Microsoft and all the other biggies in the tech world. This is exactly what Florie Hutchinson of Palo Alto intends to do. She has designed a ballet flat emoji for the masses, an image that might better suit … our image. Hutchinson wants something “simple, elegant, and reflective of the world women walk.” In an age where women must fight for every inch of attainable ground in the political, social, and economic worlds, the stiletto needs an upgrade. As The Atlantic reports, “heels as symbols and as objects, are fraught. They are impractical – that is their menace as well as their appeal – and, because of that, they are typically associated not just with feminine beauty, but also with feminine hindrance.” We do not need more hindrances. We can walk tall without the heels. So, give us some more choices. Hutchinson doesn’t fight to do away with the stiletto, but she does aim to find a middle ground between tennis shoe and six-inch heel, something any practical woman can appreciate. If emojis are the union of art and communication, we must continue to evaluate the message we leave behind. What will our hieroglyphs say of us in 50 years? I hope we never lose the dancing lady in the red dress or the unicorn or the 100 percent that lets me be as superlatively emphatic as necessary. But what about the families grouped by color or the standard bride in veil? Can we make the essential upgrades to this pictorial language so that it accurately reflects the culture? I hope so. As a paralanguage, emojis must continue to transform. They are the language of the masses and must evolve as we do. Hutchinson’s shoe is the beginning of the changes we need to make as a society to accurately reflect women, men, cultures, and religions. The visual vocabulary needs expansion if it is going to encompass the world in which we live.



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