Specsavers are working with the emoji brand to launch new glasses wearing icons, and it’s high time, too
I was excited to read in Optometry Today that UK-based optician chain, Specsavers, have begun working with the emoji brand to launch four new glasses-wearing emojis, which will represent glasses as “chic, not geek”, with designs including a red cat eye frame and a smart tortoiseshell style. As Social media manager at Specsavers, Lucy Abbott, pointed out, “the only emoji icons with glasses as it stands are the geek and granny, which doesn’t fully represent all glasses wearers. This is about being proud to wear glasses”.
In my book, Clearly, I outlined four obstacles in getting glasses onto the noses of the 2.5 billion people around the world who need them, what we term the 4 D’s — Diagnosis, Distribution, Dollars and Demand. Whilst the first three are often discussed, the sector often negates attention on the fourth ‘Demand’. Even in developed countries there can be an aversion to spectacles, a stigma that they imply weakness and are ‘uncool’. For example, as recently as our Sightgeist event in March, we were joined by 9-year-old Lowri Moore, a proud glasses-wearer from Nottingham, England, who showed us how this stereotype has affected her. She wrote to Disney CEO, Robert Iger, asking him to create a Disney princess with glasses, disheartened and frustrated that the only “characters who wear glasses are called geeks”, which she, and I too, find unfair.
Whilst many argue that the stigma attached to glasses is anachronistic and not widespread, if emoji and cartoon representation reflects society’s views on glasses, one could easily conclude that glasses-wearers are viewed exclusively as nerds.
Some may argue that creating emojis will do little to change cultural perceptions of glasses. I disagree. The power and reach of an emoji should not be understated. Emojis are one of the most accessible and widely used forms of communication across the world, they operate across languages, religions, genders and can be used by anyone with a mobile phone or tablet — a form of communication and expression with scope like few others. With the advent of technology, we have become lazy and we often prefer to save time by using emojis in place of words to represent our feelings and collected thoughts. As we increasingly use these animated figures, they come to represent our ideas. So, if the only glasses-wearing emoji is representative of nerds, it feeds into the established idea of all glasses-wearers as bookish geeks.
Perhaps more importantly, emoji use is especially prevalent amongst the youth around the world. I can’t remember the last time I received a message from my children without the inclusion of at least three emojis! It is the lens through which they witness societal shifts — the expansion of the emoji dictionary in recent years with the inclusion of more ethnic, gender and religious representation, alongside more recent emojis representing physical and visual impairments too, encourages them to see the world through a diversified lens. By including glasses-wearing emojis who are not exclusively geeky, we prove to younger generations that they need not feel inhibited to wear their glasses for fear of falling into an antiquated stereotype.
Whilst this may not seem a problem in the developed world, with increasing amounts of people freely wearing their glasses proudly and without reserve, the same cannot be said elsewhere. In India, for example, up to 70% of women of marriageable age believe that their marriage prospects would be dimmed if they wore glasses. Women who wore them feared being perceived to have genetic and/or physical defects. This then leads to women struggling in their jobs, meaning they are less productive, hurting a company’s bottom line as well as deeply affecting their quality of life.
To disrupt this cycle, we need increased representation of glasses-wearers from all walks of life — representation of diversity is the key to showing the world that there is not only one way to success and happiness. And whilst a single set of emojis won’t change this singlehandedly, it is an important step in the right direction — imagine the moment a young Indian girl sees a chic glasses-wearing emoji on her tablet, planting the seed that glasses won’t curtail her beauty, but enhance it.
It is exciting to see that this change can start at our fingertips, with the animated figures we use everyday, showing us that glasses do nothing but give you the freedom and capability to be anything you wish. I applaud Specsavers for campaigning to make this happen — I hope to see these new emojis soon!