The aerial tramway (🚡) has been Twitter’s least-used emoji for the past 76 days. I know this because of Least Used Emoji Bot (@leastUsedEmoji), an automated Twitter account that provides an update of this fact every morning. The bot pulls data from emojitracker.com, a real-time scoreboard that has inspected 23.3 billion tweets since 2014. Of the 845 standardized Unicode emojis available, there are 844 that have gotten more action than the little aerial tramway. This will change soon, and it’s all thanks to the internet’s refusal to afford anyone or anything some peace and quiet.
Since it launched on Feb. 11, the @leastusedemoji account has featured only three emojis. First came the suspension railway (🚟), which was the least popular emoji for just one day.
It was overtaken (undertaken?) by the non-potable water symbol emoji (🚱), which was the Cleveland Browns of emojis for 80 straight days until the aerial tramway assumed its place on May 5.
Unlike the suspension railway and the non-potable water symbol, the aerial tramway has become the subject of a viral campaign to boost its popularity. For the first five months of its existence, the @leastUsedEmoji account received little to no attention. Now, each update gets dozens of retweets and interactions, most of which include the emoji itself in an effort to pull the aerial tramway up from the bottom of the charts.
According to BuzzFeed News, the aerial tramway emoji’s viral surge began thanks to a post on New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens, a Facebook group with more than 100,000 members. The retweet numbers indicate that July 4 was the day the tramway’s spontaneous branding campaign really picked up, but the emoji’s ranking has remained unchanged despite desperate attempts from the online hordes.
When the aerial tramway inevitably sheds its least-used title crown, it will not be because of a sudden surge in interest surrounding cable-based transportation. Rather, it will be because we refused to honor its lonely existence as the least compelling of the transit-related emojis. If anything, we have robbed the aerial tramway of its one identifiable characteristic: its unpopularity.
In the early 2000s reality TV boom, stars of that medium were frequently dismissed as merely “being famous for being famous.” In 2018, when everything is public and shared, one can become, like the aerial tramway, “famous for being anonymous.” It’s a self-defeating curse, one that threatens anyone who lives in comfortable obscurity.
The emoji, like many viral stars, did not ask for this fame. Instead, it is riding the same kind of self-referential wave that swept the likes of “Star Wars kid” and #PlaneBae into the jagged rocks of online notoriety.
For years, the aerial tramway lived in its peaceful little cartoon idyll, carting precisely zero passengers up and down an unseen incline. It was only a matter of time before the humans swarmed upon it and began projecting our own fears of unpopularity and impersonality.
The aerial tramway emoji has been living in hell for 76 days. We are monsters.
Update, July 23, 2018, 1:15 p.m. ET: On Sunday, @leastUsedEmoji announced that aerial tramway is no longer the least used emoji on Twitter. It survived at the bottom of the rankings for 77 days before being usurped by the input symbol for latin capital letters.
This development sparked celebrations on Twitter amongst those who had championed aerial tramway’s cause, and some are remaining loyal to the emoji to an uncertain end.
Will we afford input symbol for the latin capital letters emoji the privacy we refused aerial tramway? Early indications are not promising.