How an expression of tiredness, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, even flirting has become a sign of our times
First developed in 2019 and only released in September 2021, Melting Face is one of 37 new emojis approved by the Unicode Consortium, the organization that maintains the standards for digital text.
Arriving at a time when the world was still suffering the effects of the pandemic, the melting face of society held up a mirror and we glimpsed our own melting reflection in it.
When it seemed we had run out of words to capture the fear, anxiety, tiredness and exhaustion that was consuming us, we turned to the melting face and allowed the little guy to become a proxy for our worries (of which there were many).
Living Expense Sending You Broke? melting face. Have you realized that your promotion means more work for the same money? melting face. Stressed out by the literal melting of the planet? melting face.
With its twisted half-smile and desperate eyes, it has become a global symbol of perseverance in the face of abject helplessness.
We loved this emoji because it barely stuck, just like the rest of us; Melting Face didn’t translate ‘I give up’ but instead, “I’m doing my best, please send help.”
Even after we waded out of the post-pandemic malaise, there was still so much to melt about. Typically, popular emojis follow a similar trajectory to memes; They burn brightly and then burn out.
In 2020, the crying laughter topped Emojipedia’s list of the most used emojis on Twitter. But the following year, it fell out of favor with Gen Z, so much so that CNN ran an article heralding its demise: Sorry millennials. The crying laughing emoji isn’t cool anymore.
All of this makes Melting Face’s staying power even more impressive. Heading into 2023, it remains as visible as ever, although its meaning seems to have evolved. After a few years of testing, we’ve loosened up a bit; Our Melting is less of an existential crisis and more of a cuter conundrum, forcing the emoji to read the room and adapt.
A recent straw poll with my friends confirmed that the emoji remained among the most used, but their relationship with it had changed. It is now used as a form of flirting, a tongue-in-cheek expression of embarrassment, or a description of something embarrassing.
It’s now clear that the shapeshifting nature of the melting face has all but cemented its status as a cultural artifact. It’s the Mona Lisa of emoji, an art form whose emotional landscape depends on that of the viewer, or in this case the sender.
So whether you’re seeing fear, hope, despair, shame, excitement, thrill, or something else entirely, chances are you’re seeing yourself.
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https://www.smh.com.au/culture/comedy/how-the-melting-face-emoji-became-the-sign-of-our-times-20230130-p5cgdk.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture How an expression of tiredness, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, even flirting has become a sign of our times