Emoji Explosion

By Amanda Tonoli

With every new update in technology, there is always excessive discussion surrounding it. Maybe the new innovation was too much, or not far enough. Are robots taking over or is technology just stagnating? The most recent nexus of controversy is the iOS update which brought the unthinkable to iPhones everywhere — different skin-toned emojis.

Why is this such a big deal? Personally I don’t care what color my sassy girl emoji is as long as it gets my point across. But for those who do, Apple has made emojis available in several different skin tones. The argument is being made that just because the skin tone is different doesn’t mean they are actually supporting their supposed goal of racial equality.

In “Apple’s new diverse emoji are even more problematic than before,” published in The Washington Post on April 10, Paige Tutt said instead of fixing the problem of racial inequality in the emojis, the addition of different colored emojis has actually managed to cause more issues.

“The emoji are being used to make racist comments on social media and insert questions of race in texts and tweets where it may never have arisen before,” Tutt said. “Instead of correcting its mistake — excluding people of color from emoji — Apple has, in some ways, made the situation worse.”

Tutt argued that this creates a newfound pressure to specifically identify with one skin-toned emoji over the traditionally lighter one. There is also a neutral yellow one, which can apparently be associated with lack of identity. Who thought there could be so many issues with the color of a simple smiley face?

In “Diversity Is Racist: The Absurd Reaction To Apple’s New Emojis,” published on thefederalist.com on April 17, Mitchell Blatt draws attention to a tweet by Clorox filling in the empty spots of the illustrated bleach bottle with emojis saying, “New emojis are alright but where’s the bleach?”

This tweet apparently exploded with claims from users that the company nefariously intended to bleach out all the new colored emojis. Really, Clorox was just promoting their product by trying to humorously downplay the new update and the controversy — it was just a joke.

Blatt makes the counter argument that the phenomenon everyone is commenting on existed before and will exist after — racists will be obscenely racist on the internet, now with just a new tool.

“Such messages should be condemned, but they don’t say anything about the wisdom of introducing new emojis,” Blatt said. “They only say something about the person expressing the message. Even text can be used to share racist messages, yet that isn’t a condemnation of the printing press or the keyboard.”

This is the dose of reality we need. The new emojis are interesting, but they are just emojis — small pictures meant to convey emotions simply. It’s basically a smiley face with different facial features.

“But would it be too much to hope that people become a little less judgmental and take things more lightly?” Blatt said. “If someone sends you a message with a smiling face, the first reaction shouldn’t be to analyze what message he or she was sending by the race of the face. The message of a smiling face is one of happiness, in any race.”

Sometimes we are prone to force a grave intent on something with pure intentions and simple intent. Certainly, this is a conversation worth having, and emojis can be used to convey or insinuate more complicated ideas. But if I can successfully get my point across with a yellow, black or white emoji, I will use whatever face expresses my mood.