Take one scroll through any famous TikTokkers comments section and, along with the classic #fyp, you’re bound to have come across this 👁👄👁 emoji. It seems videos are flooded with the string of emojis but what does it really mean?
The eye mouth eye emoji combo first grew popularity on TikTok, before it was referenced in a 2019 YouTube video titled “some of ya’ll bouta be real mad at me”. Users tend to comment the emojis when content is classed as being cringey and embarrassing. Others say the emoji means ‘it is what it is’, a popular phrase for when circumstances haven’t turned out as planned.
The emoji grew in prominence through a marketing stunt, which used 👁👄👁 as a brand name for what was supposedly an upcoming app.
The business venture, produced by 60 techs working at social media companies like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, mysteriously asked investors and people interested to enter their email.
This is what went down:
Twitter account @itiseyemoutheye and corresponding website ‘It is what it is’ launched a new campaign.
The accounts used the eye mouth eye emoji as part of its web domain and got people who clicked on the link to submit their email address.
After doing this, users received a message saying: “Yay your email has been submitted!! follow us @whatitisfm 👁👄👁”
By posting things such as “share on twitter for special treatment 😉” and “ps don’t forget to add 👁👄👁 to your twitter name”, the team who pulled ‘it is what it is’ together, tricked the public into getting involved in something much different to an up and coming app.
In reality, the tech team was giving exposure to the Black Lives Matter campaign. According to The Independent, everyone who submitted their emails or invested in the app were actually donating to criminal justice reform, mental health services and Black Lives matter Foundations. ‘It is what it is’ raised over $65,000 in donations for these projects.
All of this Trickery didn’t come without backlash
Things started to go upside down when there was talk of merchandise being released with 👁👄👁 on t-shirts, hoodies and other garments.
A product manager from Microsoft tweeted about the insensitive language for the T-shirt named the ‘Breathtaking Tee’. Considering the death of George Floyd was by suffocation, many took to twitter to argue selling meme t-shirts only trivialises the pain that black people have experienced.