Facebook have created emojis that are more representative of our world. Users can now choose from over 1,500 new emojis with more skin tone options and more women in strong roles available.
“The new designs, gender-agnostic options and multi-coloured emojis [are] available on many Android devices and web products for the first time,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.
The company says there will now be women who are police officers, surfers, runners and swimmers, and you can choose the skin colour you would prefer. Red heads will also be represented for the very first time.
The new emoji announcement came a month after Google employees submitted proposed emojis to the Unicode Consortium, which is a non-profit group that determines what emoticons are available across all devices.
While it’s great we have a much more diverse representation of skin colour, some question the best way to choose what skin colour to use without offending people.
In a comment article called Why white people don’t use white emojis Andrew McGill wrote about a conversation between two podcast hosts on an episode of Call Your Girlfriend. The hosts discussed the appropriate way to use different skin coloured emojis.
Co-host Ann Friedman confessed to her other co-host Aminatou Sow that when she was texting another white person she felt strange texting brown hands clapping. She asked if that was a weird thing.
Sow replied with an astonished “wow” and said “welcome to our world” before pointing out that before there was always a set default and now society was trying to make a new default. Sow said she always used the darkest emoji.
“I don’t think that should be weird. It’s like, who cares?” Sow said on the podcast. Friedman replied by admitting it was something she thought about.
Dr Pauline Bryant, a Visiting Fellow in Linguistics at the Australian National University (ANU) tells SBS that knowing the correct way to use the new emojis can be challenging.
"The new range of skin tones is still pretty stereotyped (and still includes the original bright yellow one - no-one has skin that colour!) but it's a start," she says. "It raises a whole range of new complications. Do you send an emoji with your own skin tone, or the recipients?"
Dr Bryant explains that the concern is, if you do choose the recipient's skin tone, what if you choose a shade they don't identify with? Perhaps this could be more offensive than using the standard yellow colour.
"What about racial stereotypes, would some ethnic groups be offended by a very yellow-faced emoji now that it's apparently race-specific rather than generic?" she questions.
Dr Bryant says that language changes all the time and we need to adapt how we communicate according to new communication devices.
"One of the changes is the burgeoning use of emojis," Dr Bryant says. "If they're here to stay, or at least until a better way to depict social meaning comes along, improving how we can use them is a good idea."