Ah, emojis. An incredibly useful remote communication tool. But – I’m pretty sure that system emojis are the perfect symbol for the age of hyper-corporatized Web 2.0:

✅ They’re made, owned, and distributed by mega corporationsAnd you can read my rant about it
✅ For some reason you can buy stuffed versions at Walmart
✅ Anyone can yield them in their textual contributions to the Net

You might’ve noticed I said system emojis, not all emojis ever. There’s a distinction, and as a complete amateur linguist, I think this distinction leads to some interesting iykyk consequences. This essay explores the hypothesis that the ability to use custom emojis in cozy web spaces leads to a greater sense of unity and group membership.

System emojis vs. custom emojis

System emojis are the emojis that come with your phone or your app (i.e. built into the system you’re using). Everyone has access to theseUnless you're a small web hipster who still runs Windows XP or browses on Waterfox. Which is cool, btw. , and you’re free to use them as you please. Custom emojis are uploaded and controlled by users, which also means they’re typically only available in closed spaces where membership is limited – Slack and Discord being the most popular.

// More coming soon...


  • Custom emoji within cozy web groups like Slack and Discord contribute to a sense of unity and group membership, resulting in tighter bonds between participants
    • Visual consistency across platforms contributes to this
  • Custom emoji as a unique linguistic tool that can only be used within smaller communities
    • Constraints and affordances of custom emoji, compared to normal emoji
    • Markers of group membership, in-joke understanding
  • If normal emoji are peak hyper-corporatized Web 2.0, custom emoji are peak domestic cozy web