Maybe it’s just me, but I know that I always get excited when there’s a new iPhone update. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small, like changing the way a certain app runs on their latest phone, or something big like completely changing what our texts look like; there’s just an exciting feeling that comes when I see the little notification pop up next to the updates section.
When my friends starting buzzing that there were new emojis out on April 8th, I got even more excited. I remembered when I read an article over the summer announcing that there were going to be new emojis released in July, and then the intense disappointment that followed when my emoji keyboard remained the same.
A few of my friends had downloaded the update before me, and my one friend told me the faces were all yellow and the only new ones were additional flags. I was confused by what she meant by this. Then my update finally downloaded and I saw that the people emojis went from looking like this:
to looking like this:
I didn’t really understand it. I thought maybe Apple was trying to follow in the footsteps of Legos, whose standard figures usually feature yellow skin. According to the Lego Customer Service page, “We chose yellow to avoid assigning a specific ethnicity in sets that don’t include any specific characters. With this neutral color, fans can assign their own individual roles to LEGO minifigures. In some sets, such as movie themed ones, we want to represent the characters as authentically as possible. Some figures included will therefore be represented in different ethnic roles to stay true to their characterization.” It seemed logical that maybe Apple was trying to do the same thing with their emojis.
Later on, I was holding down an emoji, and I discovered that the yellow emojis weren’t the only updated emojis this update brought along. The yellow emojis were set as the default, but for some of the emojis, such as the police officer and the bride, you can hold down the emoji and select from five different skin tones.
According to an article on MTV.com, “They’ve also changed up the emoji for family. Along with an emoji showing a mom and dad and two kids, you can also show a family with two dads or two moms. And, likewise, you can change the skin color of the dads and moms. Apple is also releasing emoji of different countries’ flags so that no matter where you live, you’ll have a flag to share.” So not only did they make the emojis more diverse with different skin colors, they’ve also added representation for other countries and other sexual orientations.
I think this is a pretty important step. It may not seem like such a big thing, because they’re only emojis, but I think this will eventually lead to bigger things. It may seem trivial at first, but the way I see it, if a little girl sees an emoji and is able to be excited because it looks like her then that’s a step in the right direction. A little boy can see an emoji with a two dads and feel like it’s okay to have two dads or love a man. A kid can live in a country other than the United States and actually see their flag.
Technology is something that is so present these days. I often see little kids in public being entertained by their parents’ iPhones or iPads and the acceptable age for a child to have their own phone seems to become younger and younger. This is why I think it’s such a good medium to try and implement diversity into.
Emojis seem so simple and harmless and on the surface, this change may seem trivial. But I think it carries a bigger message than others may see at first. Even though it’s 2015, there is still an issue with racism. People are still discriminated against for wanting to marry a member of the same sex. There are certain countries where there are so many stereotypes that go along with them that are not fair to assume. Emojis aren’t going to make a huge difference, but they’re a step in the right direction. A lot of people use emojis, so if a lot of people can see this small inkling of diversity starting to spread, then maybe it’s a hint that bigger things will come in the future.