What Do the Food Emojis Say About Us?
Like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, emojis have become a secondary language, as universal as numbers and as well-understood as international distress codes. There’s an emoji for every occasion. Happy? There’s an emoji for that. Sad? There’s an emoji for that. Unsure of how you feel? There’s even an emoji for that. But, one of the most prolific sets of emojis are the ones that depict food. Some are used generically to denote going to eat somewhere, the salad items are used optimistically to promote healthy eating, and the desserts are used seldom – if we don’t emoji them, the calories don’t count. What meals can you make out of the emojis?
The emojis are used most and developed under the influence of America, where Mexican makes the menu. This is reflected in the emojis – with tacos and burritos holding pride of place in the dinner section. The red hot chili is also featured prominently, helping to add some spice to the emoji food palette. Fajitas, enchiladas and nachos – which made 6th place – are all listed in the top 50 dishes served in America. The emoji keyboard appears to be a prime reflector of what people enjoy eating in the States.
Greek cuisine is populated by food to grab on the go at one end and food that can be ordered for a sharing meze to keep everyone happy. Most people probably won’t realise that the Greek gyros kebab features on the emoji menu and the Greek staple of the aubergine is also heavily featured. Combine this with the salad emoji, another strong Greek-menu contender, and there’s a whole Greek feast on your keyboard.
Japanese cuisine may be the most prolific and it probably has something to do with the fact that emojis were first developed in Japan in 1999. Phone companies took these and ran with them, offering their own sets for people to use: much the same as today’s Android and iPhone differentiation of emojis. When it comes to Japanese food, we have sushi, sashimi, noodle soup, fried prawns, miso soup and onigiri rice balls, as well as other dishes that could pass as Japanese cuisine. The sashimi emoji is the most popular food one in California, while the fried prawns are a favourite of Connecticut.
It’s no surprise that the most commonly used emojis are those that depict fast food. From pizza to hamburgers to fries, hot dogs and ice cream, the foods that you would typically grab on the go with friends are the ones that are used most on the emoji keyboard. It makes sense to ask a friend to grab some burgers or pizza and not to share a sweet potato or a bowl of rice, and the speed with which you can plug these emojis into your chat reflects the quick-and-easy nature of the food itself.
Using emojis to communicate is just one aspect of how the digital revolution is changing the ways we live our lives. But could the foods depicted in emojis also be changing our dietary habits? Or does the emoji keyboard just reflect what we as a society deem important and are likely to text, tweet and email about?
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.