TIME 2014 Election

President Obama Is Reaching Out to Millennials About the Economy Using…Emoji

Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about jobs and the economy during a visit to Millennium Steel Service as part of Manufacturing Day in Princeton, Ind. on Oct. 3, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

With "every single one" of Obama's economic policies on the ballot this November, the White House is using emoji to reach out to young voters

Hey millennials, President Obama wants you to know that he gets you. And to make that message clear, the White House began using emoji in a social media campaign launched Thursday to engage the nation’s largest generation on the President’s economic platform.

The economy has been pretty scummy for the majority of millennials’ adult lives, as a new White House report on the generation born between 1980 and the mid-2000s makes clear. According to “15 Economic Facts About Millennials,” having started out in the workforce during the Great Recession will affect young Americans for “years to come.” Though the unemployment rate for 18-to-34-year-olds has fallen from its peak of 13% in 2010, in the group still faces 8.6% unemployment—notably higher than the national average of 5.9%. And although more millennials have college degrees than any other generation of young adults, they are more likely to accrue student loan debt; such debt surpassed $1 trillion in the second quarter of 2014.

But the Obama administration wants young people to know it’s not all bad. The report finds millennials “value the role that they play in their communities,” are more likely to have health insurance—thanks to the Affordable Care Act—and millennial women enjoy a more level playing field in the workforce.

The highlights from the report will be promoted via the White House’s social media accounts starting Thursday—with animated graduation caps and flexing arms aiming to portray Obama as working hard to make college more affordable and give young people access to health care, as BuzzFeed first reported on Thursday. In an infographic on the White House website, the Obama administration even makes use of some of the more obscure emoji–including the pi symbol and a microscope–to show young people using their access to technology and science education to expand their opportunities.

The campaign is the latest White House maneuver to appeal to young people on the economy, an issue that helped drive young voters to the polls in 2008 and 2012. During a recent speech at Northwestern University near Chicago, the President said his economic policies would be on the ballot this November—a message Republicans have been using against their Democratic opponents in tight Senate races across the country.

Yet the millennial vote has skewed Democratic in the most recent contests, and a push to remind young voters of what helped drive them to the polls in 2008 and 2012—jobs, healthcare, student loan debt—may not hurt. That is, if young voters even show up this election—a recent Harvard University poll shows only about 23% of 18-to-29-year-olds said they plan to vote in this year’s midterm contest.


TIME technology

In Praise of Emoticons :-)

The smiley face is all grown up — but just as vital as ever

There are certain things so ubiquitous—things we all have used and enjoyed like we share equal ownership over them—that it is hard to imagine any single mortal person creating them. Things like this:

: – )

But the emoticon, that display of feeling crafted from punctuation, does have a birth story, and it unfolded exactly 32 years ago today, on Sept. 19, 1982.

Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon, noticed that conversations were going awry on electronic message boards the staff was using to communicate in the early 1980s. Jokes were being lost, tones were being misconstrued and unnecessary tirades were eclipsing the intended discussions. So Fahlman, then in his early 30s, made a simple, legendary suggestion: if you’re being humorous or ironic, label your comment with a smiley face made of a colon, dash and parenthesis.

Soon emoticons were spreading to other universities, then seeping into emails and eventually text messages across the world, filling the giant hole left by all the visual cues present only in face-to-face communication. The tone of one’s voice, the furrowing of one’s brow, the erect middle finger. “One of the main problems with text communication is that it’s just different from how we’ve talked to each other for most of the existence of language,” says computational linguist Tyler Schnoebelen, who wrote his thesis on emoticons at Stanford. “There they are, these words, sort of flat. We’re depleted, we’re dry in terms of the cues we get to use to signal exactly what we mean.”

And that is where emoticons have come in so terribly handy. The twist is that 32 years into this wild ride, emoticons are giving way to more colorful, more elaborate Japanese-born cousins: emoji. Those little images—invented in the ’90s by telecommunications planner Shigetaka Kurita—are much more versatile than punctuation will ever be. They’re easier to use and more efficient; three clicks can give you all this instead of just this: [ : - ( ]. They can be even be animated like this Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 12.17.47 PM.

From Facebook's Finch collection of emoji, which the company calls "stickers."
From Facebook’s Finch collection of emoji, which the company calls “stickers.”

But on this momentous occasion of the emoticon entering its 33rd year, let us take a moment to appreciate the qualities it has that emoji do not. For one, developers and designers are flooding our operating systems with their own versions of emoji (like Facebook’s) — which, unlike uniform colons and dashes, are all different. Though most people are familiar with the emoji Apple designed (like those in the above paragraph), there is no standard set. So some only work on this browser or that phone and often what we get, instead of that important, clear visual cue of a person’s meaning, is this unhelpful thing signifying that an icon should be there, but is not: Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 11.41.37 AM.

In an attempt to one up each other, emoji developers have also started making symbols that can actually confuse situations as much as clarify them. Take this adorable yet semantically unhelpful emoji from social app Line:

You know, for those times when you’re expressing something that really won’t come across quite right without a half-peeled banana with a milk mustache.

It is, of course, lovely that texters have the option to add this to their epistle, but there is a simplicity it lacks that an old-fashioned, primitive emoticon like ; ) does not.

Emoji are indisputably the cool kids to the emoticon’s awkward yet lovable science teacher. But they’re not dead yet! Until there is a standardized set of emoji—or software capable of translating all images onto all electronic devices as senders intended them—people will be relying on these 32-year-old standbys. So happy birthday to you, you little symbolic gems, and thank you for all your fine work so far = ).

TIME Internet

Introducing the Hipster Emoji We’ve All Been Waiting For


Grab a lukewarm can of PBR and check these out

If you’re looking to “unleash your inner hipster,” which we know you totally are, look no further than these new hipster-themed emoji. They’re available through an app called Hipmoji, created by California web development company Cookies & Milk.

Even though you were totally into hipster-themed emoji before they were cool, grab a PBR, turn on your record player and check these out:

Notables include Pharrell’s hat (is that really still a thing though?), a blunt, a Flappy Bird, headphones, a can of PBR, a mustache, a TOMS shoe and some bubble tea. Sure, why not.

Hipmoji has two main features. The first allows you to send these hip icons through text and email, like normal. The second allows you to upload photos and then insert the emoji into them. You know, so you can see what your cat looks like with a mustache and some Beats by Dre headphones.

The app is available for free in the Apple Store. Here’s the problem with this, though: real hipsters don’t use iPhones. They only communicate through antique telegraph machines.

TIME technology

This iPhone App Turns Your Selfies into Textable Stickers



New emoji are rolling out rapidly enough that someday we’ll have entire libraries full of incomprehensible emoji-only books to be read only by experts. But if even the existence of a hot dog or pizza emoji isn’t enough, there’s imoji—a new app that will turn a selfie, a snapshot, or pretty much anything else into a textable sticker.

Just open the app, choose a picture, and erase around the edges to turn it into an emoji perfectly suited to your conversation. imoji’s Instagram account has some suggestions: a 2007 meltdown-era Britney Spears head, goofy animal pictures, and, of course, Peter Dinklage.


How Fluently Do You Speak Emoji?

Take our quiz to find out how well you know texting's favorite icons.

(Note: most emoji definitions sourced from Emojipedia.)

TIME Internet

This Twitter Bot Will Create Your Very Accurate Portrait Out of Emojis

An excuse for deep self-reflection

A new Twitter bot called @emojidoll will create personalized portraits of those who tweet “me” at it. The randomized generator was programmed by former Flickr and bitly head of product Matthew Rothenberg and creates 15.6 million possible combinations of faces, shoes, hats, torsos, hands made out of handguns, balloons, and bananas. There is a distinct underutilization of the eggplant, though. For better or worse.

At best, you’re tipsy, sensei Santa with a butcher knife:


At worst, you have poop for a face:


(h/t: Daily Dot)

TIME Internet

New, Totally Inevitable Social Network Will Let Users Communicate Only Via Emoji

A video promo claims the website will be a socially acceptable place to talk using pictures of salsa dancers, eggplants, or poop… depending on your mood

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Two British Internet personalities have announced the creation of Emojli, a social network that allows people to only communicate via emojis—the everyman’s language. (Because poop means poop, no matter where you come from.)

“Now we know what you’re thinking: This is satire. No one would actually make this thing,” says the calming Emojli video’s over-voice. After all, creators Matt Gray and Tom Scott are known for their prankster YouTube videos. But according to the video, “It’s not, and we have.”

Emojli creators say it will be up running “very soon”, and the website encourages people to sign up for a unique username now.

In the last decade, long-winded Live Journal rants compressed to slightly less rambling Facebook posts, which condensed to 140 character tweets to smiley faces to emojis depicting salsa dancing girls, eggplants, and a monkey covering his face — depending on your mood. If a concept like Emojli became the next big social network, then maybe people would stop using words altogether (cue Twilight Zone theme).

TIME emoji

This Is What All Those New Emoji Actually Look Like

The Unicode Consortium

The news this week that hundreds of new emoji were on their way caused a stir online. Now, the Unicode Consortium has published a document that shows what they new icons will look like. The list (available here) shows 240 new “Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs” being added to version 7.0 of the Unicode Standard, which overall adds 2,834 new characters to the current standard. Some highlights include: spooky hacker, joystick, fax machine, stunner shades and, natch, the “live long and prosper” hand sign. For 15 more emoji we need right now, check out this list.

[The Verge]

The Unicode Consortium
The Unicode Consortium
TIME technology

The 15 New Emoji We Need Right Now

15 New Emojis We Need Right Now
Emojis are becoming increasingly popular in texting. On Twitter, the most used Emoji is the heart. Damien Meyer—AFP/Getty Images

In July, 250 new Emoji—from “Dove of Peace” to “Reversed Hand With Middle Finger Extended”— will be installed in the Emojipedia for all of us to use and enjoy. But if that’s not enough for you, here’s 15 more Emoji that should really be a part of the next batch.

1. Black People

While the new Emoji installment boasts nearly every imaginable meteorological setting (“White Sun With Small Cloud,” “White Sun Behind Cloud,” “White Sun Behind Cloud With Rain,” the list goes on), we’re still waiting on some basic ethnic diversity here. Get on this, Emoji people.

2. Burritos

Making dinner plans at Chipotle? Burrito Emoji. Hungry? Burrito Emoji. Bored at work? Burrito Emoji.

3. Sad Poop

There’s already the “Pile of Poo,” but in Emojipedia’s own words, that’s “for some reason smiling in a friendly and approachable manner”—hardly appropriate for something that gets mercilessly flushed away every day.

4. Sigmund Freud

So that you can tell your friends their ego is showing. Plus, Freud’s face in nearly every one of his portraits looks like he’s creepily staring into your unconscious — great Emoji material there.

5. Sarcastic Eye Roll

Helpful in a complex digital language in which “Ok” and “Ok.” mean two completely different things.

6. A Wrecking Ball

People come in like wrecking balls frequently, but not always with relationships: at an open bar, for example, or when someone leaves their Seamless account logged-in on your computer.

7. Beyoncé

Beyoncé may have an Emoji interpretation of her song “Drunk in Love,” but an Emoji of Beyoncé herself would kill two birds with one stone: a way to express that you’re feeling like a queen, and also Emoji #1 (that much-needed racial diversity).

8. A Flying Pig

So that when someone asks you to hang out, to go on a date or to help move their furniture, you can reply with, “when pigs fly.”

9. White Wine

Not everyone likes red wine.

10. Fork in Eye

It’d be much cuter in Emoji form.

11. Unimpressed McKayla Maroney

For when you get an A- on a paper, or less than 100 likes on your profile picture—or when you land on your tailbone during the Olympics vault finals and get a silver medal.

12. Talk to the Hand

For those people who haven’t yet discovered that you can block someone’s messages on iPhone.

13. Grumpy Cat

When your friends want to go to Sunday brunch at 10 a.m. or stand you up for dinner, let grumpy cat do the texting.

14. Aziz Ansari

This way, Emojipedia could trash their stereotypically South Asian Emoji—Aziz Ansari is Indian, but there’s no turban on his head.

15. Foot in Mouth

The perfect morning follow-up to your texts from last night.

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