The change of the emoji

This week on the Htet Tayza blog I want to turn your attention to a growing movement which culminated with a march on Apple HQ last weekend. The crusade for an emoji with red hair.

Technology and people power

There’s been one surprising side-effect of the rapid advancement of society’s technological capabilities that nobody expected. It’s provided people with more tools they can use to effect social change.

The results have been fascinating to watch. We have seen the rise of crowdfunding sites such as Go Fund Me, which allow a large group of small donors to fund a new project. We’ve also seen the introduction of online petition sites; portals which allow people to join their small voices together to create one large shout for social change.

We want red-headed emoji’s!

The most famous of these sites is Activists are now using the site to take on the technological giant that is Apple. In March, Apple announced that it would introduce more diverse emoji’s for its IOS 8.3 update. These featured people from different races and sexual orientations, but they didn’t feature people with red, or ginger, hair.

A user called Emma Kelly launched a petition on to turn Apple to her way of thinking. The petition reads: “Despite the recent racial and sexual ‘diversification’ of Apple’s emoji to be released in the next iOS 8.3 update, there’s still an important group of people missing from the emoji family of 300 new symbols.

“Redheads. In all their glorious gingerness, they’ve been missed out. Again. If you say you’re going to diversify, why not add a few red-haired emoji in the mix? Natural redheads may be rare at less than 2% of the world’s population, but that is 138,000,000 iPhones waiting to happen.”

March on Apple

Believe it or not, the petition had amassed over 15,000 signatures, as of the time of writing. This is 5,000 more than the petition’s 10,000 signature target.

The organisers of the effort followed this up by marching on Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California on July 11th 2015, where Kelly presented the petition. Rather hilariously, she did so by handing over a USB stick which was shaped like a carrot. Meanwhile, the BBC reported that the petition has already effected some change; it prompted tech firm Swyft Media to create an entire line of ‘ginger emoji’s.’

Technology effects social change

This, quite frankly bizarre campaign, really does show how the rapid advancement of technology has made it easier to effect social change. Newer technologies such as social media and websites connect people around the world; this makes it easier for them to mobilise the power of social outrage to effect real cultural change.


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About Htet Tay Za

My name is Htet Tay Za and I’m a young banking professional from Myanmar. I was born in Yangon, Myanmar twenty-four years ago. I have a keen interest in business, cuisine, lifestyle and philanthropy.