The thrill of eggplant emoji in Kenya

The introduction of emojis has hanged the way we communicate digitally. These colourful icons have gone from cute pictures we use while texting to images laden with meaning.

The emoji options represent a variety of things; from faces, food, transportation to to sports and relationships. With the rise of smartphones and social media, they have livened up conversations, and people can now communicate emotions much more easily. 

Apart from WhatsApp, where emojis are commonly used, these icons are now compatible with several messaging platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, SMS and e-mails.

As the world marks World Emoji Day this coming Saturday, we look at some of the most popular emojis used by Kenyans, according to Facebook.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the top used emojis in Kenya include the face with tears of joy, love heart and rolling on the floor laughing. These emojis are most common in WhatsApp and other social media platforms when people comment or react to posts and stories.

The popularity of Kenya’s used emoji is also based on food and drinks, age and gender.

The most popular food and drink emojis used by Kenyans include, birthday cake, aubergine (eggplant), shortcake, candy, and lollipop. Although Facebook listed the eggplant emoji on the food category, Kenyans, and perhaps people worldwide, use it to represent something totally different; the manhood.  Eggplant Emoji (🍆 ), also referred to as the aubergine, is an ideogram depicting a narrow, oblong species of Japanese eggplant, often used in online and text message conversations to represent male genitalia or as a sexual innuendo. While the emoji set is standard worldwide, this association is generally confined to the United States.

The eggplant emoji is a long, purple eggplant, but it’s really just used to represent a penis.

The eggplant emoji was added to the official Unicode emoji set in 2011, and was adopted to the standard keyboard of all iPhones that year. According to a history written by First We Feast, the sexual association began almost immediately, although it is unclear why. First We Feast writes:[1]

There’s still the question of why the eggplant made the jump to the dark side. Even if we rule out the banana for its grade-school awkwardness, why not the corn cob, the snake, even the Easter Island head? It’s precisely because Americans had no cultural association with eggplants prior to the emoji revolution that it was the perfect euphemism

In April 2015, Swiftkey performed a study measuring the rates of use of different emoji per country. The study found that the highest rates of use of the eggplant emoji were in the United States and Canada, and that in both countries, the eggplant accounted for approximately 0.1% of all emojis sent. On April 29th, 2015, Instagram announced that, while beginning to allow searches of emoji-related hashtags, the social network would not allow users to search for the eggplant emoji. According to CNN, “A spokesman for Instagram said the eggplant emoji was made unsearchable because it was “consistently associated” with photos or videos that violate the social network’s community standards,” including their bar against nudity. Users responded by creating the hashtag #freetheeggplant, modeled after the similar #freethenipple hashtag campaign; as of October, 2015, over 1,100 posts are associated with that hashtag on Instagram.

When it comes to age, the most popular emojis in the 18-24 bracket include face with tears of joy, love heart and rolling on the floor laughing. Ages 25 to 44 mostly use face with tears of joy and love heart. The 45+ are mostly fond of the love heart, person with folded hands and face with tears of joy.

The love heart and face with tears of joy emojis seem to be popular in all age brackets. 

By gender, globally, over the past three months, women created more posts containing emojis than men. In Kenya, face with tears of joy, love heart and rolling on the floor laughing emojis are popular for both men and women.

In addition to the emojis, Facebook Messenger is launching Soundmojis today.

Soundmojis is a new feature that enables people to send short sound clips in Messenger chat. People will be able to choose from a library of options that range from sound effects (crickets, clapping, drumroll, and evil laughter) to popular song clips.

Each sound is sent as an emoji (no words), keeping the popular visual emojis in play while bringing sound into the mix.

Although emojis are meant to be light-hearted and fun, some people frown upon their use as frivolous. However, it’s no doubt that they’ve made our digital communication richer and more precise. Happy emojing!?