The Atlantic

Emoji Don't Mean What They Used To

The pictorial language has moved away from ideography and toward illustration. It’s lost some expressive power in the process.
Source: Getty

As of last week, there are now 3,053 emoji, counting the 230 just approved for this year’s cohort—yes, the icons now get annual releases, like Microsoft Word or tax returns.

This is too many emoji. We now have icons representing people with disabilities—an admirable step toward digital representation— but we also have badgers, myriad types of rail, fingers folded in every style, superheroes, and genies. This year, we got garlic and a yo-yo.  Every new addition makes finding the right icon harder.

And still, not every emoji represents every possible identity. There are no redheaded brides, for example. There are no white men with brown hair and beards. The new emoji include hand-holding couples of different skin tones, allowing interracial couples their own mobile pictograms at last. But for each family member in multi-person groups, such as the family (👪), would result in . This year’s class of emoji adds stand-alone gender-neutral options, but those aren’t-style avatar creators, they will always leave some people out. And even then, who wants to create a new avatar for every individual they want to depict in a quick message?

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