Last Friday, Taylor Swift began a long, winding publicity stunt that started with scrubbing her social-media accounts, and ended with snakes and an announcement that she had a new album coming out. It’s called Reputation; here’s the album art.
If you’ve been on Twitter in the past five days, you’ve probably had a hard time avoiding the saga, and maybe you’ve felt like this album rollout has been received differently than Swift’s past releases. The stakes established by Taylor’s attention-grabbing stunt were high, and the payoff turned out to be some newspaper papier-mâché collage and a lot of Ashlee Simpson references.
Fans and interested parties reacted quickly to the whole charade, just as they did back in 2014, when Swift’s last album, 1989, was released. Siobhan Murphy, a senior communications manager at Twitter, pulled data surrounding emoji use in tweets containing Swift’s handle (@taylorswift13) during the run-up to the Reputation announcement and the release of 1989. Turns out you can get a good sense of Twitter’s Taylor-related mood during those two time periods just by looking at emoji.
Generally, these shifts seem unsurprising. The snake emoji is a pretty literal interpretation of Swift’s recent promo videos, plus a nod to her long and well-documented history with the reptile emoji.
Then we’ve got the eyes emoji and the shocked no-eyes emoji, which have replaced the music note (too simple, in my opinion, to really be a useful emoji anymore) and the heart-eyes emoji. One conclusion to be drawn from this data is that we don’t know what to do with our eyes anymore. Where there once were hearts, now there is nothing. Or, this could be a reflection of how emoji use has changed in the past three years: we’re less celebratory now, and more suspicious. At the very least, we’re more suspicious of Taylor Swift than we used to be.