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Feel ‘appy or sad?– top apps & our emotions

Apps! They’re our lives in smartphone form. They’ve become our links to our friends, our small-screen entertainment buddies and our trusty rides after a night out. But, as our lives change and our priorities shift, the apps we use (and love) may change too. Join us as we chart the ebb and flow of the British public’s feelings towards today’s most popular apps – spanning a six-year journey and all told in emoji form (because #feels).

Let’s go

These top three emojis represent how we feel about top apps

Using social listening tool Brandwatch, we mapped out the types of emojis people use when talking about the biggest apps of the decade. Why emojis, specifically? Because these little icons have become a near-universal way to visually communicate our feelings to the world (we all know what those ‘sweat droplets’ really mean).

So, from Facebook to TikTok and from ‘smiling cat face’ to ‘movie camera’, what are the top emojis we use when talking about popular apps? Here are the top three per app for 2019:

There are 3,178 emojis in the world currently, and we only use a handful of them when discussing our favourite apps. Of the top ten emojis used across all 20 apps, over half (55%) were in the form of expressions (i.e. they contained the word ‘face’ in the descriptor).

Whether it’s the ‘disappointed face’ that topped Facebook’s emojis, the ‘clown face’ popular on TikTok or the annoyed ‘expressionless face’ that made an appearance in second and third places for Tinder, Snapchat and Whatsapp, we love to be expressive when discussing top apps.

We hope you’re old enough to read about the second most popular type of emoji (scroll away now, junior; we see you). It includes icons like ‘aubergine’, ‘winking eye’, ‘splashing sweat symbol’, ‘kiss mark’ and ‘tongue’. All combined, these risqué emojis were used 11% of the time, with Skype and Dropbox being the biggest culprits, followed by Snapchat, Tinder and Instagram. If you haven’t used Dropbox since its 2016 heyday, you may want to wait until you get home to log in again.

Let’s delve a little deeper

With data spanning all the way to 2013, we’ve got six full years’ worth of emoji-feelings to play with (check the methodology to view it all).

As you stand on the precipice of Mount Emoji, let us be your Sherpa guide. Here are a few trends we observed:

Worried about your business? Listen to emojis

We all have favourite apps that we scroll through all the time. But, the apps you loved in 2013 might have become dull duds by 2019. Sometimes apps just fall out of favour. Other times, business practices ruin it for everyone.

Take, for example, Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s social network empire may be holding steady in raw numbers (it reached 2.45 billion monthly users in the last half of 2019), but users have started to grumble. Between 2014 and 2017, one of the most popular emojis was the ‘white right pointing back hand’ with users proudly sending their social media followers onto their Facebook profiles.

But 2018 saw users do a 180. The ‘disappointed face’ started trending in mid-2018 and was the dominant emoji throughout 2019. With public relations crises that saw Zuckerberg testify before US Congress in 2018, it’s clear that, as apps start to show their shoddy true colours, the emojis we use to talk about them sour, too.

We also observed this trend for the once-revered Uber and the unassuming Google Maps. For Uber, 2015 saw the arrival of the ‘pouting face’ emoji and, as the years go on – and stories about unsafe business practices and short-changed employees come to the fore – emojis like ‘unamused face’, ‘weary face’ and ‘neutral face’ all begin to make an appearance.

Google Maps has seen a similar trend, with ‘confused face’ rising the ranks from 2014 onwards and ‘anguished face’ and ‘worried face’ all holding pride of (shameful) place in the top 5 emojis used overall. When it sends you into a traffic standstill for the third time in your journey, your face may well look like that too.

Emojis suggest entertainment is evolving

No sooner have you gotten on the right side of the Netflix algorithm than a new service pops up, promising shinier shows or better beats. With so many entertainment apps at our virtual doorsteps, you’d expect a handful to have made it onto the list of top 20 most downloaded.

What you might not expect is what the emojis have to say. Forget cliff-hangers and surprise album releases, emojis have dropped big news about changes to the way we consume entertainment. In 2013, the most-used emoji for YouTube was the ‘movie camera’ – the same year in which the platform offered premium, subscription-based channels for content creators.

But, while videos remain a mainstay of the platform, other forms of entertainment have slowly nudged their way up. The ‘microphone’ and ‘multiple musical notes’ emojis made their way from the latter five of the top ten most-used emojis up to the top three spots by 2019. The host of a billion cat videos took it upon themselves to infiltrate the music video world too – with emojis suggesting YouTube were able to rival platforms like Deezer and Spotify.

In the meantime, Spotify weren’t twiddling their thumbs either. While ‘headphone’, ‘musical note’ and ‘multiple musical notes’ all held strong from 2013 onwards, the emojis used when discussing Spotify showed their content had broadened by 2019. In 2019, ‘green heart’ and ‘face with open mouth’ overtook some of the musical emojis with the latter often being used to celebrate the successes artists were having on the platform. With ‘sign of the horns’ trending on Spotify since it was released on Unicode in 2015, all that’s left to say is, “rock on!”.

Sometimes fruits and veggies mean something else

Did you know Dropbox is NSFW? That innocuous file sharing site is hiding something gloriously seedy in its underbelly, and we’ve got the emojis to prove it.

Across 2013-2019, the top five emojis used when talking about Dropbox included the ‘aubergine’, ‘splashing sweat symbol’, ‘smiling face with horns’ and ‘drooling face’. The ‘aubergine’ rose to attention in 2016 and popped up again in 2019 – the same year the ‘tongue’ emoji licked its way to second place. With ‘peach’, ‘winking face’ and the ‘see-no-evil monkey’ all making appearances, the files shared on Dropbox are more X-rated than you might think.

Dropbox is potentially being used for the business side of erotica – but what about Skype? The familiar stain of the ‘splashing sweat symbol’ can be found in the top five emojis from 2016 onwards while the ‘smiling face with horns’ devilishly hangs on to the top three from 2015 onwards. ‘Tongue’ and ‘kiss mark’ are also popular, particularly in 2019. Skype group calls suddenly has a whole new meaning.

As you might expect, newer apps like Snapchat and Tinder are paying their dirty dues, with emojis like ‘drooling face’ (Tinder) and ‘smiling face with horns’ (Snapchat) both entering the top five. And yet, the quintessential dating app might have lost the art of seduction. Top emojis when talking about Tinder include ‘skull’, ‘upside-down face’ and ‘expressionless face’ – all suggesting that the newer apps need to take some flirting advice from the veteran pros (who’d have thought you’d be asking Dropbox or Skype about the birds and the bees?)

The fans make a stand with emojis

On Twitter, the most popular emojis were the ‘white right pointing backhand index’ and the ‘white down pointing backhand index’. Why all the poking and prodding? Much of the conversation about Twitter involved users sending their followers onto the newly created Twitter profiles of famous footballers. The ‘fire’ emoji was also used in this context – but only for the profiles worthy of such praise, of course.
Emojis have also become a handy way for fans of certain shows, trends and sports to show their appreciation and support.

Meanwhile, Netflix saw the rise of the ‘smiling face with horns’ during 2018 and throughout 2019. But, before your head gets filled with “Netflix and chill” thoughts, this purple devil was used to show support for popular show Lucifer. With its fifth season being announced as its final one, fans embraced emoji power and petitioned to bring back beloved Lucifer, ASAP, please and thank you. Fans’ emoji game was so strong that show boss Ildy Modrovich responded, saying “so much of me could do Lucifer forever”. If the emojis are anything to go by, so could fans.

Relative newcomer TikTok also demonstrated the powerof fans. ‘Clown face’ dominated 2019 so much so that it become one of the mostused emojis across the six-year period analysed. Most were fans of Insane ClownPosse (whose Hokus Pokus song starts with the lyric “clowncheck”) and created lip syncing-style videos that have now become a mainstay ofthe platform. But there’s opportunity in clowns, and TikTok’s filled withclown-themed hashtag challenges and the quickest make-up tutorials in theworld.

Methodology

This dataset was obtained through social listening tool Brandwatch and includes over 42 million tweets by British users between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2019.

A tweet would qualify for the dataset if it had at least one of the 400 most common emojis (excluding flags) and mentioned one of the 20 apps analysed. The list of apps analysed are as follows: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, Uber, Tinder, Snapchat, TikTok, Spotify, YouTube, WhatsApp, Amazon, Facebook Messenger, Gmail, eBay, Skype, Dropbox, Google Maps, Google Chrome and Viber. Tweets were excluded if the only app mention was via a URL (i.e. a link to the app URL, rather than explicitly mentioning the app by name). Emojis were also excluded if they didn’t represent at least 1% of tweets with an emoji for each particular app.

The resulting dataset was qualified by comparing with a control dataset. The control dataset was a sample of every tweet from UK users that contained one of the 400 most common emojis (excluding flags) and totalled over 3.7 billion tweets. For both datasets, a simple calculation was applied to determine the relative frequency with which each emoji is used: View the full dataset across all 20 apps here.

Whether you approach apps with a download-use-delete mindset or have thousands painstakingly arranged in colour-coordinated, alphabetical order, you can’t have escaped using one or two from our table above. Next time you get a new mobile phone, you might want to download all 20 – just to see what’s up.