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Ranking the New Emoji

In dark times, we can always use more emoji

Getty Images
Getty Images

While America was picking a new president this week (cue scream face emoji), a group of technologists has been busy deciding something much less depressing: the latest additions to the ever-blossoming emoji set. Thursday marks the final day of the Unicode Consortium’s quarterly meeting, meaning our gentle emoji overlords have nearly finalized a new collection of illustrated characters that will be included in Unicode 10. And judging from the 50 finalists — which include a woman in a headscarf, a “mind blown” face, and a symbol for meditation — this year’s emoji proposals were not made in a vacuum.

Unfortunately, it’ll be a long time before these characters reach our actual keyboards. The slothlike nature of the consortium means they’ll likely be adopted by Apple, Google, and Microsoft sometime in 2017 (and even then, companies can pick and choose which to include). But the new icons stand to be relevant for the years to come. Here’s a ranking of the top 10 characters on the list, from most useful to least useful.

1. Woman With Headscarf

Considering that our president-elect called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” (a platform that has suddenly been wiped from his website) less than a year ago, this emoji is well-timed. It was proposed by a group of people that includes the cofounder of Reddit and emoji-diversity activist Jennifer 8. Lee. Further proof that we have very necessarily reached the era of the woke-moji, even if real-life policies turn out to be lacking.

Potential uses: Spamming the official White House Instagram comments.

2. Gender-Inclusive Child, Adult, and “Older Adult”

This year, Apple, Google, and Microsoft made some nice progress on the emoji-gender front. They gave us more variations of families, female versions of the detective and construction worker professions, a rainbow flag, and a male version of the dancing Playboy bunnies. But those emoji are very clearly male or female, and people in real life exist on a much more fluid spectrum. Though the Unicode Consortium has incorporated gender and skin tone into its recent updates, it is hoping — for the sake of its very small organization — that it won’t need to oversee an endless stream of customizable, Bitmoji-like symbols. The three emoji in this set strike a nice balance for now. And, not to keep bringing up the imminent Trump presidency, but people in the LGBT community need all the support they can get at the moment.

Potential uses: Illustrating what you look like; announcing you got a sophisticated haircut.

3. Vomiting Face

This one is sure to end up on your “recently used” keyboard in the coming years. If 2015 was the official year of the “face with tears of joy” emoji, as Oxford Dictionaries so boldly declared, then 2017 will definitely be the year of the vomit emoji.

Potential uses: SantaCon; anytime you accidentally get drunk and eat Taco Bell; Inauguration Day.

4. Shocked Face With Exploding Head

Sensing a theme? The future is sure to bring many unbelievable headlines. And probably a lot more talk about nuclear war. What better way to express our anxieties than an atomic bomb explosion superimposed on a yellow orb with a shocked expression?

Potential uses: Paired with this clip from Planet Earth or any photo/video of Beyoncé.

5. Flying Saucer

Thanks to social networks like Facebook, conspiracy theories are having a moment. And there’s no better way to acknowledge that blatantly made-up information pulses through the veins of our major social networks than with a symbol of the original unbelievable tale: the alien abduction.

Potential uses: An appropriate reply anytime someone tweets a Breitbart story or an invitation to a Star Trek marathon; analyzing the lyrics of “E.T.” by Katy Perry feat. Kanye West; during any discussion of J.J. Abrams’s filmography.

6. Person in Lotus Position

Yes, there has always been the man/woman-getting-a-head-massage emoji, but that won’t do in these dire times. We need a symbol that represents high-grade meditation — 100 percent pure forgetting the world around you exists.

Potential uses: A symbol of support for anyone waiting in the DMV line; a symbol of support for anyone watching the presidential address; good shorthand for a celeb who wants to address their haters.

7. Brain

The official proposal for the brain emoji predicts that people will use it to discuss diseases and mental illness. But anyone who’s listened to a Nicki Minaj song knows that it will immediately become a symbol for fellatio. Just after an iOS update made our beloved peach less butt-like, a new character with a coded meaning has come to save the day. I eagerly await its frosting-coated premiere in the next Kimoji pack. Long live brain in all its forms.

Potential uses: Pair with explosion emoji to indicate you are abusing Adderall; pair with skull emoji to indicate you have an Adderall hangover (this applies to pretty much any mind-altering scenario).

8. Socks

Unlike the other emoji on this list, this symbol holds no deeper meaning than what it represents. Socks are socks. They are soft and comforting and keep a necessary extremity of your body warm. There is nothing like a good pair of socks. If I were a billionaire, my one ridiculous extravagance would be wearing a new pair of socks every day.

Potential uses: Requesting socks as a gift; honoring the memory of Socks the cat; discussing the many merits of socks; sending this to your roommate in lieu of hanging an actual sock on the handle of your college dorm room.

9. Grinning Face With Crazy Eyes

There has never been a more lit emoji than the grinning-face-with-crazy-eyes emoji. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were personally commissioned by Keak Da Sneak. I wouldn’t be surprised if this emoji single-handedly relaunched the career of Keak Da Sneak. I feel kind of high just looking at it.

Potential uses: You know exactly what to do with this one.

10. Breastfeeding Woman

Noble cause, but points off for what is likely going to be an overly censored execution. Would’ve liked to see a nipple. Free the nipple.

Potential uses: Signaling you’re going to take a breastfeeding break; signaling an alien is attempting to suck your heart out.



Very hip. Almost too hip.


Pies are great, in theory. Especially when they’re whole. But when has a piece of pie ever been transferred successfully to a plate without first crumbling before your eyes? What kind of unrealistic pie expectations are you pushing on the public, Unicode Consortium?

See the full list of candidates, which were solidified Thursday await final formal approval in May 2017, here.

An earlier version of this story misstated when the Unicode Consortium would formally approve the new emoji. While additions were solidified Thursday, they will not be finalized until May 2017.