The Brief: To celebrate World Emoji Day, we've collected and defined some of the most culturally significant emoji of 2020 so far.
World Emoji Day 2020 📅
World Emoji Day falls on July 17, the day that most emoji platforms show on their calendar emoji. For World Emoji Day 2020, we’ve reviewed the significance that emoji have played this year in messaging, memes, and internet culture. Here are some of the most culturally significant emoji with nuanced meanings and usages that go beyond their most straightforward definitions.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the face mask emoji has surged in popularity as a popular way to talk about the virus. It’s also the perfect spokes-emoji to remind people to wear masks and face coverings when in public.
The microbe emoji has become shorthand for Coronavirus. Until we have an effective and well-distributed vaccine, it’s here to stay 😟.
The Black power fist has long been used in protest, organizing, and anti-racist efforts and the raised fist emoji can act as a digital representation of the symbol. As protests and uprisings calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality erupted around the world after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, the raised fist emoji served as a way for people to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement online.
A popular way to call someone out for being sneaky, a liar, or otherwise snake-like, the 🐍 emoji was at the center of controversy when some Bernie Sanders supporters trolled Elizabeth Warren’s social media with it to call her a snake for comments she’d made. Historically, the snake emoji is popular among anti-Swifties in the feud between Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian.
This emoji combo is what it is. On TikTok, it’s a popular comment to demonstrate someone staring or lurking with a strange expression. It’s also what people use on Retail TikTok to anthropomorphize brands and retail stores. 👁️👄👁️ and the phrase “it is what it is” stirred up buzz on Twitter when some members of Design Twitter posted elusive messages about it and promoted an app that turned out to be a call for donations to anti-racist organizations.
Sometimes paired with the simp emoji, the fingers pointed together emoji combo is associated with shyness and meekness. The gesture was at the center of the “but I’m shy” TikTok trend and has a spinoff known as the “confident” emoji: 👈👉.
We have emoji mashup bots to thank for sharing remixed emoji that can be completely bizarre and/or the perfect way to express niche emotions:
base from 💩 (poo)
eyes from 👹 (japanese-ogre)
mouth from 😖 (zigzag) pic.twitter.com/UG8OAwPum3
— Emoji Mashup Bot+ (@EmojiMashupPlus) July 16, 2020
Among the emoji in the latest Unicode launch, the trans flag is an important and long-anticipated addition. The pinched fingers emoji has also gotten a lot of attention for its many possible interpretations.
TikTokers are creating new meanings for emoji including the fairy emoji 🧚, which is often paired with backhanded compliments. Here are some emoji that represent the turmoil-filled year 2020 has been so far: grimace 😬, upside-down smiley 🙃, chart decreasing 📉, soap 🧼, trash 🗑️, poop 💩, exploding head 🤯, loudly crying 😭, roller coaster 🎢, facepalm 🤦♂️, person at computer (aka work from home) 👩💻, skull and crossbones ☠️, fast reverse button ⏪, fire 🔥, clown 🤡, and vomit face 🤮. Many of these were included in Emojipedia’s award bracket for “the most 2020 emoji.”