Updating emojis – Is it really necessary?
This week, Apple released a preview of iOS 10, which includes some big updates to some of your favorite emojis. There are a number of new additions (facepalm! selfie!) but the biggest change is largely aesthetic. Emojis are getting hyper-realistic.
Apple is hardly alone in evolving its emojis from goofy yellow disembodied heads into increasingly lifelike, skeuomorphic three-dimensional characters. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have consistently completely overhauled some of the original emojis.
Things change. Software updates. But what’s happening to emojis represents the worst kind of gentrification of the internet. It’s unnecessary, sterilizing, and maybe even a little bit dangerous for the future of the beloved character set.
Arguably the biggest reason for emojis’ success has to do with their lovable weirdness and limitations — the constraints that forced its users to get creative and turn emojis into a language of their own. Emoji originated in Japan, and its culturally specific character set, with inscrutable inclusions (at least to non-Japanese users) like a video game controller, two (two!) compact discs, a bunch of fax machines, and lots of plugs and microscopes and envelopes with arrows all over them made the glyphs feel like a cool, weird discovery. (There’s something genuinely delightful about a limited set of illustrations that decides it is absolutely crucial to immortalize the eggplant ahead of most other foods.)
Over time as the emoji set has become more diverse and more detailed, I can see how this in some ways is less fun, even if it does arguably make emoji more useful.