What was it about a tiny picture of Kim Kardashian’s be-thonged rear that triggered the idea? Announced December 21 on Instagram, the reality TV star’s custom emoji set—ugly cry face, waist trainer, Yeezy Boosts, hair flip—were cartoons of cartoons of cartoons. Her examined life, captured on Instagram, hardened into pixels. The language was out there, now it was yours to make into speech, just $1.99 on the App Store. I watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians on Sunday nights, intercut with the house bitchery on Downton Abbey, so I recognized most of the memes from which they were derived. All from tiny pictures no bigger than my fingernails, which, thanks to Kim, I could now mime painting black, like a boss.
Kimoji are a rebus of past acts, an alphabet made to be used by a visually savvy online community who participate by adopting, adapting, and commenting. Kim and her people saw that she had made her own visual tribe, and now that tribe can show their colors in the teeny-tiny space of a status update. Kim has her French-manicured middle finger. So why can’t our tribe have ours?
An idea, floated on Twitter, fleshed out by Michelle Goldchain and the Curbed team, coming soon to a phone near you.