The Rise and Fall of the Wolf Face Emoji

Or, the emoji formerly known (to me) as the ambiguously dog-like fox face.

Okay, listen up. Look at the date. It’s April Fool’s Day. Is this post a joke? That’s up to you to decide. Honestly, I’m just going to pretend that it is to soften the fact that I have real feelings about this issue. This is important journalism. This is justice…

Justice for the fox face emoji. No, not the current obvious orange fox face that we all have gotten to know in recent years. We’re talking about the OG emoji that was callously usurped by the profile of an unimaginative gray wolf in late 2016’s iOS 10.2 update. We’re talking about this guy:

That blank stare. That vague skeuomorphic shading, singular beady eye and puppet-like mouth. Those oversimplified features that left the true identity of this creature open to speculation, perhaps best summarized in this screenshot from a HuffPost article:

This was all I never knew I wanted in an emoji. What purpose did it serve? None that could be quantified, but that is ultimately what made it ideal. No context made sense of it, and so every context lent equally to its usage. It was the quintessential nonessential emoticon, and I reveled in its uselessness. That paradox was its draw, as poetic as they come.

Now, I cannot claim to have discovered its charms on my own merit. It was almost as though I needed to witness it fully misused in order to appreciate the art of its very existence, and I was awarded that privilege when my own father first began utilizing the emoji keyboard in text communications in 2013. Historical documentation notes the following:

So you see, while initially my unenlightened mind could not grasp the full weight of this discovery, my eyes were eventually opened, and henceforth my longstanding devotion to the fox face emoji was established.

edited in the correct version of the emoji to simulate the tweet as it was meant to be viewed

On the surface I took it for granted, trusting that this pixelated companion to my communications would always be available at the tap of a finger, hoping that it would achieve longevity through mass recognition of its iconic appearance. Alas, my subconscious mind seemed to come to an awareness of the fragility of the digital realm, alerting me to the inherent ephemerality of my beloved unit of expression with an ominous premonition a year and a half before its fated demise:

Somehow I understood that this emoji I had cherished would be destined to remain underappreciated. I do not remember the exact moment I fully realized it was gone, but I still feel the pain of absence from this senseless loss when reliving that prophetic tweet each year as it reappears through my Timehop summary, ironically punctuated with the updated emoji I had dreaded. In all technicality, our friend never really left, simply assuming the newly clarified identity of the true Wolf Face emoji. However, the crisp contours and stern gaze of this fresh design will never compare to the delicious ambiguity of its predecessor.

Fox face or wolf face, dog or puppet, etc., its legacy lies within that ambiguity. I would fight for its right to be reestablished, to own its indescribable identity, but it would be a lost cause. It was cursed from its inception to become an artifact of a generation, an image left behind in a graveyard of early smartphone interface design, overcome by ceaseless innovation. All I wish is to finally tell its story, to give voice to the voiceless, to let these long-buried feelings come to light. Let this stand as an epitaph written out of love and respect for an old friend.

Today, we remember. Justice for the OG wolf/fox face emoji, 2008-2016. RIP.

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