The public mood has long been reflected by emojis, the catalogue of colourful icons we litter like punctuation through texts and tweets.
From hearing aids to period blood to tiny people taking selfies, the emoticons play a major role in our digital vocabularies.
Studying 1.68 billion tweets posted between 2018 and 2021, the analysts at Emojipedia noticed a surge in its use between March and April 2020 – when many countries were first hit with Covid-19 restrictions – and Loudly Crying Face’s popularity has continued to soar ever since.
This is not a joke. The most used emoji on Twitter is now '😭' and here are the numbers https://t.co/gzSc2UTCdW
— Emojipedia (@Emojipedia) April 1, 2021
The open-mouthed-streams-of-tears icon knocked Face with Tears of Joy 😂 off the top spot for the first time ever. The crying-laughing emoji was already slowing down in popularity as Gen Z eschewed it as something for uncool millennials, but its decline became notably more rapid after April last year.
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The beginning of Loudly Crying Face’s ubiquity does align with a time when people the world over suddenly had a lot less to laugh about.
But Emojipedia deputy emoji officer Keith Broni warned it’s not as simple as communicating our sadness more often.
The understood meaning of emojis, like words, evolves over time, and Loudly Crying Face is used by many to add a touch of light-hearted melodrama rather than to express earnest upset.
In fact, as the analysts found, using it alongside the syringe emoji can indicate “the joy and relief of someone finally receiving one of the Covid-19 vaccinations”.
Loudly Crying Face’s rocketing popularity is likely down to a combination of many factors, not least its versatility. But twelve months into the world’s biggest crisis in living memory, it’s a fitting symbol of the year we spent firing off texts to people we missed.