2021’s top emoji confirm the world texts like your parents

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Quick, what was the last emoji you sent? Bit of a rhetorical question there; if your emoji use lines up with the rest of the world, statistically, we already know. The Unicode Consortium has released its report on 2021’s most popular emoji — and it’s more or less what you’d expect.

The top emoji this year were:

  1. 😂 – Face with tears of joy
  2. ❤️ – Red heart
  3. 🤣 – Rolling on the floor laughing
  4. 👍 – Thumbs up
  5. 😭 – Loudly crying face
  6. 🙏 – Folded hands
  7. 😘 – Face blowing a kiss
  8. 🥰 – Smiling face with hearts
  9. 😍 – Smiling face with heart-eyes
  10. 😊 – Smiling face with smiling eyes

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If you’ve noticed that crying-laughing emoji occupying the top spot has felt a bit stale for a while, there’s a reason: by the Unicode Consortium’s data, five percent of all emoji sent are 😂. What’s more, 82 percent of total emoji shared in 2021 were those listed in the top 100.

There’s no data for 2020, but 2021’s list isn’t much different from 2019’s (😂 ❤️ 😍 🤣 😊 🙏 💕 😭 😘 👍). The two hearts emoji has been knocked down to the 13th spot to be replaced in the top ten by smiling face with hearts.

The Consortium’s Unicode Emoji Subcommittee studies emoji popularity to determine what types of emoji it should consider for future additions. It says that the results this year are evidence that people tend to use universally appealing emoji with multiple meanings: the folded hands emoji, for example, can obviously signify prayer, but it’s also frequently used as shorthand for gratitude.

There are some additional interesting tidbits in the report, too. For one, the opposite of the above universality rule is also true: super-specific emoji like flat shoe (🥿) don’t get used much. Country flags are also among the least popular emoji, despite comprising the largest collection at 258 individual options.

“This data is a strong signal to encode fewer specific concepts like flags and less single-use objects like shower caps,” the Consortium says, and “instead focus on globally-relevant, well established communicative concepts.” Makes sense to me.


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