With over 92% of online users using emojis, they have quickly become an iconic form of language in the new digital generation. It is not difficult to spot an emoji or two on any influencers’ post on social media; from widely used emoji like hearts to express their love and support, to the various hand signs such as peace, thumbs up or high five.
The biggest reason for users to use emoji is the ability to better express their thoughts and feelings, and be understood in the widely diverse platform as emoji are universal. Ever since the adoption of the emoji keyboard, emoji has revolutionized digital communication and it has gained itself a world recognition day as well (read about World Emoji Day 2017 here).
While the primary aim of emoji is to better express and create a more interesting conversation, we have seen the rise of mean emoji, especially so for celebrities – where innocent emoji now take on different meaning and are used to insult others. A peach emoji is no longer just a fruit, so it the snake.
Take the snake emoji as example. It has been taking over celebrities’ account; for Taylor, Kim and also Gigi. In particular, snake emoji were flooding on Taylor’s account in 2016 but in a few days, they disappeared. It seems like that was the beginning of Instagram’s clean up and road towards a friendlier community through comment filtering (Wired).
How it began? Taylor’s story
The first snake emerged in July 2016, following Taylor’s break up with Calvin Harris whom she dated for almost a year and a half. Following after, those on Taylor’s side spread the news that Taylor had co-written Harris’ song “This is what you came for”. Harris then countered with a series of Twitter rant that addressed on how Taylor and her team made him looked bad and dismissed his effort (Billboard).
Hurtful to me at this point that her and her team would go so far out of their way to try and make ME look bad at this stage though – @CalvinHarris
I figure if you’re happy in your new relationship you should focus on that instead of trying to tear your ex bf down for something to do – @CalvinHarris
That was the start of the snake appearance on Taylor’s social media account as Harris fans took to Instagram to defend his honor using. Not too long after that, the public feud between Taylor, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian came to light. As Kim Kardashian posted a phone call of Taylor and Kanye West and effectively calling her a liar for the whole “I’m Famous” lyrics saga, the snake emoji took on full force on Taylor’s IG account. The snake emoji in this case was used to criticize Taylo as having negative snake-like qualities of back stabbing, scheming and dishonest.
Taylor isn’t the only one who fell for the whole emoji attack, recently, it appears that Gigi Hadid has has faced the same problem. Not long after news of Gigi’s participation in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, chinese fans have took to her Instagram to express their anger of her mocking a small Buddha doll as she squinted her eyes in a video posted earlier this year. Comments and snake emoji came flooding in; “China does not welcome someone who discriminates against Asian”, “China doesn’t welcome Gigi”, “Don’t come to Asia. Because you’re not welcome”.
Instagram comment filtering and removal
In the case of Taylor’s snakes, the snakes were not out for long. That was because the Instagram team had quietly released a filter that would automatically delete specific words and emoji from users’ feeds – and Taylor’s snakes became the first live test case (Wired).
It was only later in September that the feature was introduced to the world. Instagram users can now choose to hide inappropriate comments which would automatically block out pre-defined words or characters. Taylor’s incident has proven that this can come in pretty handy for any celebrity or in fact, any public figure on Instagram.
For those who prefer to simply remove/not allow comments like Taylor, there is also a feature to disable comments for each individual post. That is what Taylor is currently doing for her Instagram account ever since her massive clean up prior to the release of her single. Gigi is also doing the same for a couple of brand endorsement and Victoria Secret Fashion Show posts to prevent any negative comments or snake emojis from appearing.
As Instagram founders, Kevin and Mike puts it – “When Mike and I first created Instagram, we wanted it to be a welcoming community where people could share their lives. Images have the ability to inspire and bring out the best in us, whether they are funny, sad or beautiful…To empower each individual, we need to promote a culture where everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment.“
The keyword moderation is just one of the first few tools to enable Instagram users to be able to enjoy the platform at its finest, for its original purpose of creating a community and platform of visual content.