“I can’t be absolutely sure, but I believe this is @nytimes’ first emoji headline ever,” Theodore Kim, an editor at the New York Times, tweeted on Tuesday, pointing to an article with the headline, “It’s Going to Snow Again. How Much? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is, of course, the shruggie, a string of characters meant to convey, basically, “I dunno” or “Beats me.” (Stay on the internet long enough, apparently, and the weird typography trick you once read about on a now-closed indie blog four years ago will show up in a New York Times headline.) One could quibble with several of the assertions in Kim’s tweet—that the shruggie is an emoji at all rather than an emoticon, or that it’s the first emoticon to appear in a Times headline. (It’s not, and it’s not even the first time the shruggie made it into a headline.) One might also take issue with whether the shruggie is used correctly in the headline: Does a snowstorm really warrant the kind of nihilistic despair that the shruggie connotes?
Those questions are irrelevant, though, because the fact of the matter is that shruggie works. It clearly conveys the message of the headline, that we don’t know how much snow we’re going to get, even if it doesn’t necessarily add much meaning. (PSA: We never know how much snow we’re going to get.) Hey, what if—GALAXY BRAIN—all New York Times articles had emoticons in their headlines? Finally, the digital salve we’ve been looking for in this post-text world—guys, we’re pivoting to emoticons. With some help from textfac.es, we’ve taken the liberty of adding appropriate emoticons to a selection of headlines in Tuesday’s New York Times. You’ll notice that they improve reading comprehension by approximately 1,000 percent.
Do these emoticons add any more meaning to these headlines than the shruggie added to that weather article? Is the whole emoticon-in-headline strategy actually just a gimmick? Have we all lost the ability and/or will to read anything longer than 50 characters? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.