For the tech-savvy and impatient, sending a quick emoji is easier than typing out an entire sentence or response. Not just that, emojis add personality to social media plans and speak to new audiences — which would explain why everyone is so obsessed with them.

The very first emoji came about in the late 1990s when Shigetaku Kurita, a young engineer at the Japanese phone company NTT Docomo, worked on a  series of icons that subscribers could use to quickly read information on the first mobile web services and to communicate with each other. This set of 176 icons was called emoji, a combination of the Japanese words for picture — e — and character — moji.

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The trend persisted over the years and grew to essentially even replace words in recent years, so much so that 17 July has been declared World Emoji Day to honor their influence in our lives.

However, for things that seem so harmless, many emojis have caused a lot of stir for what they represent. In 2015, in an effort to seem more ethnically inclusive, Apple released a new emoji keyboard. Many praised the tech giant for adding more emojis showing various family combinations, flags from various nations and a range of skin tones, which became widely available in an effort to mirror a more realistic depiction of society. However, not many were pleased with the update. The Indonesian government, for example made a move to remove the emojis of the same-sex couples, a move which was condemned by various human rights groups. Many also thought that emojis were being used as political weapons. In Russia too, such emojis fall under a controversial law that prohibits the promotion of non-heterosexual relationships.

Until 2016, the range of emojis was not thought to represent women equally, despite the fact that women use emoji more than men do (78 percent of women report using emojis frequently, compared to 60 percent of men, according to Emogi). All professional emojis were depicted as men, until Google decided to tackle the issue head on by proposing 13 new emoji showing women in different jobs. There are, however, no non-binary representations yet.

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2016 also saw launch of a Twitter initiative by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence in an attempt to persuade Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, to remove the gun emoji over claims that an icon alone can promote violence. The hashtag #DisarmTheiPhone was soon circulated after the appeal and was met by the Twitter community with a lukewarm response. In the iOS 10 update, Cook did decide to do away with the pistol emoji, and replaced it with a lime green water gun. Microsoft and Android also decided to adopt the update.

In 2015, Instagram blocked searches for an eggplant emoji due to the rise of users using it to depict various parts of the human anatomy, saying it was a breach of their guidelines against nudity among others. However, many were outraged that the equally suggestive banana, peach and even the taco emoji remained unaffected in the Instagram blockade.