As employees in tech face layoffs, an emoji meets its moment


When Elon Musk walked into Twitter headquarters in October carrying a sink, it seemed like that image might be the lasting one to exemplify the unfolding chaos and showmanship of the Musk Twitter era. In November, however, as layoffs roiled the company and former employees announced their departures on Twitter, a new image emerged: the saluting-face emoji.
Like all emoji, the saluting face looks different on different platforms. The Apple version has half of the face missing, tofit the raised hand into the frame. This gives it an unsettling quality, as if it’s in danger. The Twitter version has two intense eyebrows and a straight mouth, implying a grim acceptance of fate. A salute, of course, implies respect and solemnity, which is one of the reasons the emoji has worked so well as a gesture made to co-workers as the ship goes down. It’s also a symbol of dignified resignation, and a response not only to Twitter’s layoffs but also the tech world’s other mass firings.
And it has been gaining broader appeal. “emoji of the year i think,” said one Twitter user, in a post that has over 80,000 likes.
The emoji gained traction on November 3, when an unsigned email told Twitter’s 7,500 staffers that they would be learning via email the followingday whether or not they had a job. Within a few hours, employees began seeing their access to company communications disappearing. Twitter’s internal Slack went electric with goodbye notes and an increasing number of saluting hands.
During the first round of cuts “employees were on Slack, and they’d announce that they had lost access to Gmail and salute one last time in Slack, and everyone was saluting back,” said Peter Clowes, an engineerwho recently left Twitter.
From there — as more companies such as Meta and Amazon announced layoffs — the emoji was used within those firms in the same way: a goodbye between departing employees and their last-standing coworkers. At one point, during an online exchange between Musk and an engineer, Musk announced the engineer had been fired. The engineer’s response? A salute. As of this writing, the emoji has become the fifth most clicked-on emoji on Emojipedia. com, an emoji archive, according to its Google analytics reporting.





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