Google’s blob emojis, which Wired announced yesterday are leaving us, have been special to me. I almost never use them, yet during the four years they’ve been around, they’ve strongly influenced my worldview.
This, I realize, is a substantial claim for some tiny blobs. But I can explain.
The other day, I was waiting for a train at the Harlem station in New York. I arrived in time to see one woman sit down on a public bench with her shopping bags. Another woman walked over and sat down next to her and asked for the bags to be moved, in order to give her more space. There were plenty of other seats available.
For the next 20 minutes before one of their trains arrived, they argued vehemently. Soon they were advising each other to get the station manager. Everyone on the platform could feel the tension.
But when I pictured them as blob emojis sitting next to each other, arguing bitterly, the situation seemed suddenly extremely funny…and sad, at the same time.
Funny, because, of course, it was petty. Sad, because it was a missed opportunity for compassion. The verbal volleys of these women (and the fact they were sitting thisclose next to each other) made them seem like intellectually coordinated sisters. Had they seen past their point of disagreement, they could have uplifted each other and those around them.
This wouldn’t have worked with round emojis.
There are several attributes about the blob emoji that give it legs, so to speak. Unlike round emojis, the blob has an implied body, which makes it easier to imagine people as these gumdrop creatures, shuffling around like PacMan ghosts in a parallel digital universe. The blobs clearly have no gender or race, but to me they look much younger than the Apple emojis. If you zoom way out on examining the real world and take a geologic scale, you’ll see that we’re pretty fragile creatures and we’re all very young.
Picturing the real world with the lens that we are all young, yellow, easily squished blobs with obvious limitations in our abilities and intellect distills an argument down to the simplest facts: our emotions.
Sometimes we argue about petty things and we feel annoyed. Sometimes we argue about influential things and we feel incensed. Sometimes we argue about things that break our hearts and we feel shattered for weeks, months, years.
My (admittedly odd) practice of looking at arguments using blob emojis doesn’t discount any of the emotions behind arguments. Instead, the practice helps me remember that we are similarly vulnerable creatures with a finite, definable, and shared set of emotions.
Though our opinions may differ on this topic or that, we want the same basic things: love, acceptance, control, health, and security. We want to be heard, seen, and respected. We are pre-programmed and designed in very similar ways.
Inside, we are all blobs.