At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, we all know that face masks—which public health officials agree are one of our most powerful weapons against the virus—can unfortunately be controversial. Grown adults in the U.S. have literally thrown childish fits over having to wear them. In recent days, Apple has quietly stepped into the debate to apparently try to calm the situation with a curious solution: an emoji.
As spotted by Emojipedia, Apple has updated its face mask wearing emoji, known as “Face with Medical Mask,” with the release of its iOS 14.2 beta 2 this week. Instead of being a plain yellow with sad eyes that looks sick, the face mask wearing emoji in the new beta appears to be… happy. In fact, one could say that it’s sporting a familiar smile.
That’s because it is, according to an Emojipedia analysis. It is actually one of the emojis we already have at our disposal, the “Smiling Face” emoji. Apple just put a mask on it.
Although it is a subtle change and not yet final—this is still a beta version of iOS 14.2, after all—the new mask wearing emoji sends a powerful message. Wearing a mask does not have to be a chore, mean that you’re sick or signify unhappiness with the current state of the world. It can mean something totally different.
Wearing a mask can mean that you’re doing your part to protect your loved ones and your community during this global pandemic. It can also show that you’re still enjoying life’s small moments when you can. Because even though the world is being terrorized by a horrible virus, we must go on.
I’m not saying people are going to get all philosophical like me when they see the new mask wearing emoji, but it’s important to note that changes in perception often start with small steps.
According to Emojipedia, Apple’s original mask wearing emoji has remained the same for the past 12 years. Apple has only made minor changes to the emoji over the years to increase its resolution. It’s not the only company that has depicted the mask wearing emoji as sad or sick. Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook also take a similar approach.
Since the emoji has only changed in iOS 14.2 beta 2, it will still appear sad when sent to users that do not have the beta or users on other platforms. Do the world a favor and don’t wait for Apple’s final decision to smile when you put your mask on. Wearing a mask truly does make a difference right now, and you should feel good about it.