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Netiquette 101: How to Use Emojis Without Having an Emojinal Breakdown

Emojis are like The Force: they can be used for good, or they can be used for evil. Or they can be used as a symbol for a dick.

by Drew Millard
22 October 2015, 11:00am

Photo by Otto Yamamoto via Flickr

More cyber-lessons from Netiquette 101:

Netiquette 101: Don't Feed the Trolls

Netiquette 101: How to Tell If Your Internet Friends Want to Bang You

Netiquette 101: How to Have Cybersex That Isn't Completely Regrettable

Netiquette 101: How to Be a Politician on Twitter

Welcome to Netiquette 101, in which we'll be using cyber-case studies to teach you basic but valuable cyber-lessons in how to be a better cyber-citizen. Today, we've got one for the real netheads out there: Yep, we're talking about new emojis.

Case Study: It's a big day on the internet, and not just because Joe Biden's not running for president or because we've all collectively decided to pretend that today is "Back to the Future Day." No, it's a big day because the Unicode Consortium, which is totally a thing, decided to shed some light onto how it picks emojis for inclusion in your phone's keyboard.

In an interview with the New York Times, Unicode Consortium co-founder Mark Davis explained how his ominously-named organization chooses new emojis, considering factors like how widely a symbol is used, how often people are projected to use that symbol as an emoji, and whether different of cultures and groups are represented in the Emoji keyboard. The Consortium is currently considering a new batch of images, Davis said, and the new emojis will probably be on phones some time in June 2016.

A gun—a rifle, to be specific—will more than likely be included in the update. This is obviously controversial, and the Times reports that a British gun control group called Infer Trust is actively campaigning against the symbol's addition. "The reason that's included is because shooting is an Olympic sport," Davis told the Times. Apparently, it's just one of many sports emojis slated to come out next year, just in time for next year's Olympic Games in Brazil.

What We Can Learn: If you pressed an iPhone with a screen full of gun emojis to my head and asked if I thought having gun emojis were a good idea, I probably would tell you that no, I do not think having gun emojis are a good idea. There's already one gun emoji (which has also been protested by a different group), and announcing that you'll be including another gun emoji at a time when mass shootings have become an almost weekly tragedy seems to be in poor taste.

On the other hand, as Garrett Gilmore wrote in a piece for VICE earlier this year, Emoji is a form of visual language, used to "convey emotional content." This is a fancy way of saying that a gun emoji is not meant to directly represent a gun. So just like you can't ban the word "gun" from the English language and suddenly expect people to stop shooting each other, taking the gun emoji out of the Emoji keyboard won't help anything. People will just reference guns with a different emoji, or the word gun.

Photo by Otto Yamamoto via Flickr

Case Study: One thing emojis are inherently good at is conveying the concept of "a dick." You can use pretty much any emoji that looks vaguely phallic to represent a phallus. This includes the plane, the microphone, the train, the guitar, the ear of corn, and the infamous eggplant.

But for some people, that's not enough. If you happen to be one of those people, then Flirtmoji's got you covered. The explicit emoji app has been around for a hot minute now, offering users a chance to send sexy sets of lips, boobs, and buttholes to their hearts' content. With their upcoming BODIES pack, the company is taking the concept a step further, offering users a bunch of images of dicks, among other smutty icons.

What We Can Learn: Logic would dictate that we could just use the emojis God gave us to talk about penises. But this is real life we're talking about, and real life often tells logic that it can suck, well, a dick.

Case Study: Some big Star Wars news happened this week! True, the collective enthusiasm of Star Wars nerds turns any minor piece of Star Wars news into Big Star Wars News on an almost weekly basis. But this is the week Disney released a new, two-and-a-half-minute trailer for the new Star Wars movie, and that's a legitimately big deal. We got to see the idiot boyfriend from Girls hold a cool lightsaber, hear Han Solo say, "The Dark Side... the Jedi... they're real," and see a robot hand that probably belongs to Luke Skywalker touch R2D2. I am not ashamed to say that it gave me chills.

My fellow Star Wars enthusiasts who felt compelled to tweet about the trailer were in for a surprise. For those using the Twitter app for iOS, Star Wars-related hashtags like #StarWars, #OscarIsaac, #StarWarsTheForceAwakens, and #JJAbrams automatically added Star Wars emojis to the user's tweets.

Slate's Jacob Brogan wrote, "By attaching these emojis to our messages, Twitter and its partners are encouraging users to talk in certain ways about certain things. While we'd likely be discussing Star Wars anyway, these emojis direct the flow of that conversation."

That's true to a certain extent. Essentially, Twitter used Emoji as a way to make itself sexy to advertisers, creating an incentive to tweet about Star Wars by rewarding those who did with custom Star Wars emojis. This probably drove up the number of hashtagged tweets about The Force Awakens—and by using the hashtags, fans made themselves easy to find.

What We Can Learn: Emojis are like the Force. They can be used for good, or they can be used for evil. And if you think capitalism is evil, emojis are definitely with the Dark Side on this one.

Follow Drew on Twitter.