As someone paid to push words around a screen for a living, let me be the first to say: typing is effort. If there was some way I could still do my job without having to type anything, if i could continue to send out vital reports from the very heart of pop culture without having to form ‘cohesive sentences’, if I could convey the anguish which stains my soul without ever having to consult a thesaurus, I surely would. This is why I’m such an ardent supporter of the emoji. I think emoji represent an egalitarian ideal, a means of communication which transcends the oppressive barrier of language. One day I hope all dictionaries are burned en-masse and allwords are replaced with emojis, even when we speak. I do no ask much, only to be able to shout the upside-down smile at someone, just once in my life.
That day is not upon us yet, but it turns out we’ve still been furiously hammering out the lil’ yellow digital pictograms quite a lot in 2016. Predictive keyboard Swiftkey have sifted through their data on their users’ emoji habits to bring humanity a crucial list of The Most Popular Emoji in 2016:
In at number one, the cry-laugh emoji (or ‘Face With Tears’ as it was apparently called when it was dubbed Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2015) has smashed it again. Why is it so enduringly popular? Why, because we the British public love to laugh of course! But not just any kind of laugh, a laugh tinged with tears. There is no word in the English language which adequately describes feeling both happy and sad at the same time, perhaps the most beautiful feeling there is. ‘Bittersweet’ comes close, but Face With Tears is a far purer expression of the sentiment, and so in surpassing literary achievement, Face With Tears is a very worthy winner. It should be noted that Face With Tears is also used (arguably, mostly) to show you’re pissing yourself laughing at something, but that’s a little less poetic.
A round-up of the rest: Winky Face Blowing Kiss at 2 is noteworthy in that it outstrips the plain ol’ Love Heart at 3. Here, cheeky flirtation clearly bests a more universal symbol of love which can be both romantic and platonic at the same time. For me, this represents a clear decline of the family unit and a descent into perversion.
Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes is quite a smug one and is mostly used by people announcing they’ve got a new job or cooked something nice, and it saddens me to see something so boastful so high up on this list. Heart Eyes Emoji is the creepier, more-forward, more-obviously-titillated cousin of Winky Face Blowing Kiss, and I would advise you to use the latter if you must attempt to chirpse with emoji.
The chaste Winking Face is an entry I definitely condone, embodying as it does, the nation’s lust for good-natured fun.
Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes is a more self-aware smugness than Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes, and I hope to see it usurp the number 4’s position next year.
Smiling Face has been a stalwart of the emoji game, but its number 8 position represents a bit of a fall since it’s ubiquity in the pre-internet ‘Have A Nice Day’ era.
Loudly Crying Face always looked too much like it’s still having a good time for me, so I don’t think it’s a particularly good depiction of what it’s trying to convey.
Thumbs Up at number 10 is one I can get behind, because if you put it next to any of the emoji faces, it looks like it’s extending from the side of their head, and imbues them with a sense of playfulness. It’s the mixer to the spirit of faces, if you will.
Swiftkey delved deeper into their data, building a profile of each city’s emoji habits compared with the rest of the UK, and this gives us an extremely important sociological study of our divided nation. Let’s psycho-analyse each based on their fave pics:
The people of Glasgow are adept at directions, or else are quite forcibly telling you to look elsewhere, pal.
Likewise, the people of Cardiff seem to like nothing more than waving goodbye to one another and ending conversations.
Conversely, the peoples of Manchester and Sheffield are represented by the open-handed greeting emoji, suggesting they are the most welcoming peoples (emoji-wise) in the UK.
Londoner’s propensity for the Raising Hands In Celebration emoji
The praying hands emoji of Birmingham is a lovely expression of their diverse and multi-cultural city.
Apparently, Nottingham’s emoji is ‘Person Bowing Deeply’, but I’ve always thought it represented someone glumly cradling their head in their hands, and now I’m worried I’ve used it wildly inappropriately and insensitively.
Meanwhile, there’s a hint at Belfast’s complicated geopolitics and sense of identity within the world with their championing of the globe emoji.
The popularity of the Hear No Evil chimp in Edinburgh indicates either a wilful sense of delusion or else a steadfast refusal to grass.
I’ve been trying to work out the connection between Leeds and a specifically Blue Heart, but I’m at a bit of a loss? There’s blue in the Leeds United kit? The people have sadness in their hearts?
I had to Google the deeper connotations of the Watermelon emoji, and frankly people of Bristol, I am appalled.
No idea why Liverpool went for this white circle, to be honest with you.
Finally, Swiftkey compiled the ten emoji most commonly associated with Brexit, with at least eight of them representing an extremely negative response – the patriotic victory fingers and clapping hands being the two exceptions.
Can emojis heal our deeply fractured nation? What are the people of Liverpool trying to get across with their grey orb? Did this article need to be this long? All questions which could be answered with a straightforward: no.