The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States for the past 35 years. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at your smartphone.
There are 54 emoji to represent different modes of transportation, at least on modern iPhones. A mind-boggling 12 of them depict trains: You can text a friend everything from a light-rail car to a steam locomotive to the shinkansen. There’s a red coupe, a yellow taxi, an ambulance. There is even a scooter emoji.
But there is no pickup-truck emoji.
I made the discovery earlier this week when I was trying to text my brother a pickup truck. (Like many young male Americans, I sometimes consider exploring new frontiers in rugged charadery by purchasing a 10-year-old Toyota Tacoma.) Then I discovered there were none to send.
The pickup truck is not the only vehicular lacuna in the emojick pantheon. The Emoji Motors Dealership, stationed on some county highway beneath a gargantuan stars-and-stripes, would go out of business pretty quickly. Thirty-five percent of new cars sold in the United States in 2017 were crossovers, yet there is no logographic Subaru Outback or Honda HR-V. There isn’t even a minivan emoji. Just about the only utility vehicle in the emoji paddock is a delivery truck, but those are service vehicles, poorly suited to off-roading, and also insufficiently virile.
Instead, there is only a sporty red coupe, the sole emoji vehicle that seems designed for daily drivers. This is obviously inadequate for today’s overscheduled American families, but at least busy parents can type it in two positions: head-on, or from the side. Even with this versatility, there remain more types of gondola lifts on the emoji keyboard (“mountain cableway” and “aerial tramway”) than models of car.
Why so few automobile emoji of any sort? Perhaps it arises from emoji’s country of origin: Japan, a nation far more yoked to its trains than most. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that Apple and Google—the two companies that help the Unicode Consortium manage its emoji library—are headquartered in the Golden State. The California Air Resources Board is sometimes called the most powerful air-pollution regulator in the world; perhaps it has a top secret, hyper-powerful Cyber Enforcement Division, preventing bit-sized cars and trucks from spewing greenhouse gases into text threads around the world.
In a week full of bad-faith complaints about conservatives and Big Tech, my recent discovery strikes me as a real, actual example of technology’s anti-rural bias. So if you are a national reporter writing about the midterm elections, I am happy to set up office hours in a nearby diner or Waffle House to discuss both this and other Millennial-specific cultural grievances that I hold, among them that Hall and Oates are underrated and Nanette wasn’t as good as everyone thought.