Laura Catron ‘17 -Apple’s updated emoji keyboard was not met with the usual vigor after its initial release last week. Among the updates: diverse gender and racial representation, different family types, the rainbow LGBT+ pride flag, and most controversially: the water gun emoji.
Supposedly the issue started with a bug report from Neven Mrgan of Panic, an app designer for Apple products. Neven Mrgan asked that the pistol emoji be replaced with a pink toy gun or a green squirt gun. “The Emoji should not be a reminder of the weapon causing tens of thousands of deaths in the US every year,” Panic wrote. Apple neglected to release an official reason for the change.
Many users refer to the change as unnecessary censorship. Honestly, I cannot help but agree.
Censorship is a tricky topic. Censoring for the sake of backlash and censoring for the sake of compassion and sensitivity are two different things, and people tend not to realize this. In this case, the censorship occurred in name of the former.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a gun, nor a gun emoji. The same goes for kitchen knives and cars. Approximately 1.3 million people die in automobile accidents every year, but there are more than 10 emojis portraying cars. Obviously the difference lies in that no one can actually die at the hands of an emoji.
I can appreciate what Apple was trying to do. Publically demoting the gun violence in America – no matter how small the method – takes a bit of boldness, even at a request.
The unfortunate side effect of the controversy is the assured questioning of “triggering.” As a general rule, the public’s perception of triggering is so far skewed it can only be described as ridiculous. People think of the concept of triggering as catering to overly sensitive teenagers who get upset when you use some common word.
In reality, those common words are often slurs. F****t, n****r, t****y. Those words have violent, violent, histories that cannot be forgotten by the victims. Is it really so much to ask that those phrases aren’t dropped in casual conversation? But I digress.
Censorship for something as general as a gun defeats the purpose. Censorship needs to be reserved for necessary topics and situations. Revising language and communication, even in the form of emojis, must be taken seriously and limited as much as possible.
Morgan Brown ‘17 — The new Apple update, iOS 10, made a few changes to the emoji keyboard. Changes include symbols that represent a larger variety of people, such as the rainbow flag or single parent families, and the gun emoji changed to a fluorescent green water gun. Though Apple never released an official reason for the transition, Apple users no longer see the former pistol emoji in messages sent or received, a form of wrong and unnecessary censorship.
The website www.disarmtheiphone.com identifies a possible reason for the removal of the gun emoji: political protests from users. A letter on the website petitions Apple’s CEO to remove the gun as a form of symbolic speech in order to fight the ease of gun accessibility in America.
This leads me to my first question: if Apple censors the gun, a supposed symbol of violence, why keep the knife, the axe, or the bomb? I don’t see Apple changing the butcher knife to a butter knife, or the bomb to a stink bomb. Each of these weapons implies a violent act, so what makes the gun different? Where is the line drawn?
It seems there is no line, no clear boundaries of appropriateness and “offensiveness”. The emoji change goes hand in hand with situations like Princeton’s outlaw of the word “man” and YouTube’s ban of offensive or harmful comments in videos. By preventing people from using certain words and symbols, the institutions creating these rules censor what the American people see and hear.
If they censor words, symbols, and concepts in our youth, we will never survive the real world. The concept of preventing “triggering”, a word with a context of offending someone (therefore “triggering” negative emotions), by removing opinions that some consider rude or wrong sets unrealistic expectations for the world outside of our “safe spaces”.
We are too sensitive.
We are too easily offended.
We as a nation have no backbone.
Some people with iPhones, like those who started the Disarm the iPhone movement, revolted just at the sight of a tiny image of a gun. If we can’t even handle a gun on our phones, what can we handle?
Look up from your phone and see the real world. People own guns, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a right ensured by the Second Amendment. Guns serve as just one example of the countless concepts that we can fight to remove from our culture, but they never really disappear.
We must learn to face what “triggers” us head on, even if it makes us uncomfortable. Entering uncomfortable situations drives an essential part of life, even if one of these uncomfortable situations simply involves keeping the gun symbol on smartphones. Changing our emoji gun’s ammo from bullets to water accomplishes nothing, making the censorship not only unnecessary, but pointless.