The most-used emoji of 2021 has been revealed - and Gen Z won’t be happy

Despite the ongoing pandemic, we maintained positivity when it came to our digital communication this year

Harriet Hall
Wednesday 08 December 2021 10:50
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As they say, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. But what if you were to cry-laugh instead? That’s how most of us expressed our digital emotions in 2021, it seems.

According to the Unicode Consortium’s annual analysis of emoji use worldwide, the “Tears of Joy” icon has come out on top as the most-used emoji for another year.

Unicode Consortium is a not-for-profit coalition of technology companies who work together to determine how to show special characters, including emoji. The organisation collected data that revealed tears of joy accounted for 5 per cent of all emoji use this year – and that’s despite Gen Z declaring it deeply uncool. The tears of joy emoji recently became the focus of a generation emoji war, as young people revealed they considered the icon to be passive aggressive.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the raging climate crisis and our endless doomscrolling, we appear to have maintained positivity when it came to our digital communication this year, with all of the top 10 most-used emoji all being quite upbeat.

Following closely behind tears of joy, was the red heart icon, then the more exaggerated rolling on the floor laughing emoji, the thumbs up, crying emoji, prayer hands, blowing a kiss, smiling face with hearts, heart eyes and a classic smiley face.

In terms of sub-categories, the crown came out on top as the most-used emoji in the clothing category, while the purse, lab coat and flat shoe gathered dust on our keyboards.

In the transport-air category, the rocket ship was the most popular – perhaps a reflection of the year that commercial space travel launched. The flexed bicep was the most used body part emoji and the butterfly was the most common animal emoji – surprising given that the animal subcategory is the second biggest group.

When it comes to the least popular icons, country flags fell by the wayside, along with niche items like shower caps.

Comparing 2019’s emoji use with 2021, Unicode Consortium noticed that, despite Covid remaining top of the news agenda, the virus emoji only just made it into the top 500 list. “A global pandemic that changed the way we live had little effect on how we express ourselves online,” it said.

The committee ranks emoji based on median frequency of use across multiple sources. According to Unicode Consortium, 92 per cent of the world’s population use emoji, of which there are 3,663 to choose from. Despite the wealth of options, the top 100 emoji are used 82 per cent of the time.

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