How People Are Using Emoji To Oppose Trump's Policies Reveals How Powerful These Ubiquitous Little Symbols Can Be
Emoji have found a place in pop culture and our hearts, adding the perfect touch to many of our conversations via smartphone and computer. They also, however, became instrumental in the most recent presidential election — so much so that one man decided to analyze how emoji are used to oppose Trump's policies on Twitter specifically. And the results? Well, to put it simply, they're fascinating.
After the executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries was announced, Hamdan Azhar, who founded the data journalism lab Prismoji, used Twitter APIs to look at around 60,000 tweets (not including retweets and duplicate tweets) to pinpoint the top 10 emoji for certain viral hashtags, including #NoBanNoWall (grouped with #NoMuslimBan), #NotMyPresident, #WomensMarch, and #TheResistance. Azhar went into more detail on his exploration into emoji in a blog post on Emojipedia.
"I realized that emojis have seeped far deeper into our collective consciousness than their Japanese designers could have foreseen in the 1990s. In a time of national crisis and despondency, could emojis be a way of expressing solidarity?" he wrote.
Sure enough, there was a great deal of overlap in the emoji people choose to use across various viral Twitter hashtags. While this analysis was limited in that it only looked at protest-related tweets, Azhar demonstrates that maybe there's more to the colorful little icons than we suspected.
These are the emoji that appeared as the top five across the aforementioned hashtags. Call them the Emoji of the Resistance, if you like. Because they have a message, and they refuse to be silenced.
The American flag emoji was another favorite, coming in first for the #NotMyPresident hashtag. It was also second for #TheResistance and third for #NoBanNoWall. It was often clustered with words like "poor," "yearning," "masses," and "Americans" — perhaps pointing to an urge for patriotism.
Emojipedia considers this a celebratory gesture, but Azhar found it to be used in a slightly different context. It ranked first for #TheResistance, second for #WomensMarch and #NoBanNoWall, and third for #NotMyPresident. Azhar noted that it often appeared alongside words like "protesting," "solidarity," and "together."
4Face With Tears Of Joy
Often mistaken for sad tears, this is actually a face laughing so hard that it's crying tears of joy. It was top ranked for #WomensMarch, and second for #NotMyPresident. It's easy to see why it was so popular for #NotMyPresident; but its appearance at the top of the list for #WomensMarch is curious. Azhar explained, however, that like #NotMyPresident, #WomensMarch was often tweeted in mockery, which might explain this emoji's appearance alongside the hashtag.
The clapping hands were far more inconspicuous on the list, ranking fourth for #NoBanNoWall, tenth in #TheResistance, sixth in #NotMyPresident, and missing from the top 10 list of emoji for #WomensMarch all together. Its usage was a jumble of celebrating those who ruled against executive orders, and sarcastically throwing shade at its supporters. (Think of it literally clapping back.)
6Statue Of Liberty
Emojipedia says this is often a depiction of New York City, but the Statue of Liberty is also a symbol of freedom and enlightenment. It only made it into the top five of one hashtag: #NoBanNoWall — sending an obvious message regarding how this country has always been a beautiful melting pot of diversity, and perhaps referencing the poem inscribed on it: "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, famous for the words, "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Notably, this emoji didn't make even the top 10 for any of the other hashtags.
The angry face symbolizes anger, grumpiness, or annoyance. People are definitely angry, but it was never the top emoji. It ranked fourth for #NotMyPresident, seventh for #TheResistance, and tenth for #NoBanNoWall. #WomensMarch? Nuthin'.
8Index Finger Point Down
This one ranked fourth for #TheResistance and eighth in #WomensMarch. For the curious, it is officially the "Backhand Index Pointing Down" emoji.
The lightning bolt, also known as the "High Voltage" emoji, is often used in the literal sense, but can also be used as a symbol for power, energy, or action. It had one appearance: It ranked fifth for #WomensMarch. Very fitting!