Emojis have been around since the late 1990s, but only lately have the unicode-based symbols begun to influence the way we communicate with each other. And are they ever: The tiny pictograms that come pre-built into most smartphones are used widely not just by kids and millennials, but also by moms, and White House officials.
The United States, in fact, is the worldwide leader in the use of meat emojis, according to a new global study conducted by SwiftKey. That’s not a shock given our national diet, but chew on this: We also send more tech-related emojis and LGBT-friendly emojis than any other country in the world.
Measuring universal emoji usage is a pretty tricky endeavor, but if anybody is equipped to try, it’s SwiftKey. The company makes a popular third-party keyboard for Android and iOS—although it should be noted that third-party keyboards are a relatively new feature on iOS and SwiftKey’s iOS version only added emoji support three months ago. So while the company boasts a huge data set on emoji and other language usage, it had a major blind spot until only recently.
SwiftKey’s extensive report details plenty of other findings, some of which are more surprising than others. Canadians send more money and violence-themed emojis than we do (despite our national love of firearms, Americans also send more poop emojis than gun emojis), while the Australians have the U.S. beat when it comes to alcohol, junk food, pets, and clothing. Somehow, my personal devotion to cat emojis hasn’t tipped the national scale away from Brazil, whose citizens collectively wear the cat emoji crown. As far as global trends, we use emoji to send good vibes more often than bad; nearly 45% of all emojis sent are happy faces, while another 12.5% are hearts.
Here in the U.S., we send lots of rainbow and gay-couple emojis, which may or may not be a statistically significant sign of social progress. The most commonly sent emojis include the chicken leg, skull, birthday cake, fire, smartphone, pizza, and eggplant–and no, that last one doesn’t mean we’re making healthier dinners.