Contently Comic: What Emoji Best Describes Your Presidential Campaign?
1. No eggplants.
2. Never use them to react to controversy or tragedy.
Emojis are playful, lighthearted, and at this point, pretty trite—three adjectives that usually don’t belong in good politicking. But since so many (young) people use them, naturally, politicians have forced them into their campaigns.
In August, for example, Hilary Clinton asked people on Twitter to explain how student debt makes them feel in three or fewer emojis. This response just about sums it up:
@HillaryClinton What is the emoji tryptic for 'This is a very nuanced issue that should probably be discussed in actual words'
— Chuck Cotterman (@MrCott) August 12, 2015
But the big point of these digital attention grabs is that social media no longer feels like the advantage it was for Obama; now, it’s a prerequisite. And because of that, the political landscape has changed. Candidates don’t just have to wait for the podium at debates; they can bloviate on dozens of channels and communicate in text, GIFs, memes, and emojis.
A few days before Clinton made her emoji request, she got into a war of photoshopped slides with Jeb Bush, which is as ridiculous as it sounds. Marco Rubio joined Clinton and Bush as major presidential candidates who have used Snapchat as a platform to make campaign announcements. This spring, CNN even created emojis of all the presidential candidates—just in case you wanted to look into the frightening eyes of an animated Rick Santorum.
Not all of this is absurd posturing, either. In a November article titled “Ben Carson Leads Presidential Field On Facebook,” Wall Street Journal reporter Mike Shields covered Carson’s surprisingly sophisticated social media strategy, which includes paid distribution efforts, 15 second Facebook video ads, and sponsored Instagram videos. Allegedly, Carson spends “five- to six-figure budgets” on Facebook in a single day and has already run more than 240 different ads on the platform.
In a twisted way, this digital evolution of platforms and emojis is a perfect match for a politician’s ego. After all, what is Donald Trump if not the spirit of an entitled 13-year-old who will say and post anything for attention? As Martin Kozlowski’s comic illustrates, the candidates seem all too happy to play along, regardless of how ridiculous it looks.