Venmo emoji use is changing in the coronavirus economy

Kai Ryssdal and Alli Fam Apr 21, 2020
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Recent mask emoji usage has grown by 2000% compared to March 2017, according to Quartz's analysis of Venmo data. Keystone/Getty Images

Venmo emoji use is changing in the coronavirus economy

Kai Ryssdal and Alli Fam Apr 21, 2020
Recent mask emoji usage has grown by 2000% compared to March 2017, according to Quartz's analysis of Venmo data. Keystone/Getty Images
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Venmo is a payment app. But it’s also a form of social media, where users can send messages to each other when they send payments. Often those messages include emoji. And those emoji are usually a visual representation of the cause for payment. Paying a friend back for some fresh groceries? Send them lots of produce emoji in your message.

Most Venmo transactions are public by default, and Venmo publishes a set of those transactions on the platform, which provide a window into how users are spending their money. Daniel Wolfe, a reporter at Quartz, compared emoji use in March 2017 with that of March this year, and he spoke to “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about what he saw. The trends the data revealed are highly reflective of broader trends visible in the economy right now, he explained.

Mask emoji use went up by 2000%, which Wolfe said is because people are using it in coronavirus-related transactions. Meanwhile, the basketball emoji saw a massive drop in use due to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. Wolfe said he also noticed usage of many food and drink emojis are down, reflecting all the shuttered restaurants and bars. He did note, however, that “things like coffee and gas, those things actually went up, and the messages around those were a lot of feel good ones, like buying nurses coffee or setting up a tab at a coffee shop for folks who are a essential workers at this time.”

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