Emojis have come a long way since they first invaded our phones with their colorful cartoon depictions of food, faces, furry creatures, and other now-iconic symbols. Updates have given us mythical creatures, a hand taking a selfie, and a much-hyped avocado.
The most important change by far came in 2015, when an Apple update made emojis available for a diverse range of skin tones and same-sex couples for the first time. It was progress, but for a group of advocates that includes Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Emojination founder Jennifer 8. Lee, it wasn’t progress enough.
They have joined forces with Tinder to launch a campaign to petition the Unicode Consortium to introduce interracial couple emoji. Currently, the emoji featuring couples only show people of the same race. Under the new proposal, 21 different combinations of gender and race would be possible.
“Emojis are the universal language of the digital age. We use them to show our emotions, to give clarity and context to our conversations, and to represent the world around us. It may seem like there’s an emoji for everything, but that’s not the case,” reads a Change.org petition launched by Tinder. “We believe all love deserves emoji representation.”
Ohanian, who previously teamed up with Lee to lobby for the addition of the hijab emoji, told Wired, “We want our kids to have emojis that look like their parents. [Emoji] are the universal language of the internet and should reflect the modern world where interracial relationships are normal.”
The campaign, dubbed #RepresentLove, follows a study that suggested online dating may be responsible for an increase in interracial marriages. Tinder conducted a study of its own in response, concluding that 72% of users believe Tinder is the most racially diverse dating app and 77% of users are open-minded about who they date on the app.
The Tinder survey also revealed that interracial dating helps broaden our horizons in positive ways:
- 66% of global respondents who dated someone of a different race said it enabled them to experience places they weren’t previously aware of
- 63% of global respondents who dated someone of a different race said it pushed them to try new hobbies/activities
- 53% of global respondents who dated someone of a different race said it made them more engaged with social/political issues
Despite increasing acceptance, 52% of respondents believe interracial couples are not well-represented in today’s tech language culture of emojis, GIFs and memes.
#RepresentLove hopes to change that by submitting a petition to the Unicode Consortium. The submission will include a technical proposal outlining how the variations of interracial couple emojis would work from a practical perspective. Once approved, the emoji would then need to be standardized across platforms. The process could take up to two years to complete.