Report: Hawaii Loves Surfer, Rainbow, Pineapple Emoji

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hawaii-emoji-tallSmartphones are exacting revenge on cranky and crusty technologists who declared, in the ’90s, that “textspeak” signaled the death of the English language, and perhaps even the decline of western civilization.

At least back then, when fliphones lacked keyboards and writing messages required convoluted button-mashing combinations like T9, you might excuse someone from shortening “you” to “u” or dropping most of the vwls frm wrds. Now, there’s emoji. Forget trying to decipher an over-abbreviated word. Now a single symbol can be used in place of an entire phrase or thought, and interpretation often gets messy.

If your significant other sends an eggplant emoji to someone else, it probably doesn’t mean he’s thinking about becoming a vegetarian. (The poor aubergine even got banned on Instagram.)

Emoji have evolved from quirky and often random pictograms offered as bonus features by Japanese cellphone characters to an internationally standardized set of symbols that today are used millions of times around the world to add color (and sometimes confusion) to online conversations. And with that widespread use comes opportunities for big data analysis and the creation of useless trivia.

Earlier this year, SwiftKey — creators of a popular, cross-platform alternative keyboard for smartphones — put out its “Emoji Report,” which drew various insights from its global database. “Americans love skulls, Brazilians love cats, the French love hearts,” the company declared. Yesterday, a follow-up report broke things down by U.S. states.

“SwiftKey analyzed more than one billion emoji to learn how people use emoji in each U.S. state,” the company explains in its US Emoji Report [PDF]. And Hawaii was one of the states highlighted, with the Aloha State listed as “number one for everything you would expect (surfing, rainbows, waves, pineapples, volcano)” but “interestingly, it’s also number one for the basketball.”

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Hawaii emoji users also seem to have an affection for the fist (which could be a cordial fist bump or an expression of aggression), the lemon, and the palm tree. Broken down by category, SwiftKey says, people in Hawaii have a fondness for sports and geography symbols, but use word and letter symbols (!) and monkey emoji less than average.

As the results (including an infographic and an interactive map) quite understandably went viral, Swiftkey later clarified that it wasn’t pulling out the most popular emoji in each state, which it says would result in a map of smiley faces and a few hearts. They were instead finding the emoji used in a given state at a higher frequency than those in other states.

Of course, the data comes only from SwiftKey users (which, I will guess, skew heavily toward Android smartphone users over Apple iOS devices), and the interactive map shows a few different symbols than are shown in the official PDF report.  But we’re not talking peer-reviewed science here.

By the way, the eggplant emoji? It’s most notably employed by people in Nevada.

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