The Aerial Tramway Is The "Least Used Emoji" On Twitter. Meet The People Trying To Change That.
Many thumb scrolls through the emoji keyboard, tucked between a sea of trucks and monorails, lies an emoji that rarely sees the light of day.
It's the "aerial tramway" (🚡).
If you've never used it, you're certainly not alone. Unless you're a regular skier or Roosevelt Island commuter, you probably don't often use aerial tramways (also known as cable cars, gondolas, or ropeways) as a form of transport, much less in your text messages.
But now, thanks to a small but mighty group of emoji and transportation nerds, that's changing.
It all started when Jeremy, a college student studying computer science (who asked his last name not be shared) decided to try his hand at building a Twitter bot.
He started @LeastUsedEmoji using the real-time stats from Emojitracker, a website that tracks how much each emoji is being used on Twitter.
“At first I thought of tweeting out the least-used emoji excessively to try to sway the numbers — sort of a self-defeating concept,” Jeremy told BuzzFeed News. “But eventually, I decided it would be better to take on an impartial, informational role.”
Matthew Rothenberg, who started Emojitracker, told BuzzFeed News he “[doesn't] really have an opinion about that bot itself, but I do usually appreciate when people make fun stuff on top of my projects. Yay team internet!”
When the bot first launched in February, “suspension railway” (🚟) was the least-used emoji. Within just a few days, it switched to “non-potable water symbol” (🚱) — which remained the least-used emoji for 80 days.
In May, aerial tramway stole the crown as Twitter's least-used emoji, which it has remained ever since, for 73 days.
@LeastUsedEmoji now has more than 6,000 followers — and a whole bunch of fans rooting for the aerial tramway to finally get the recognition it deserves.
The aerial tramway got even more fans after @LeastUsedEmoji was mentioned in New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens (aka NUMTOT), a Facebook group of more than 100,000 meme-loving transportation nerds.
Naturally, hundreds of group members responded with strings of aerial tramway emojis. (Never mind that the bot only tracks usage on Twitter — passion for the tramway knows no bounds.)
Mitchell Sheldrick, a NUMTOT moderator, told BuzzFeed News he thinks the aerial tramway's newfound popularity “just comes down to the power that shitposting seems to have in most groups nowadays.”
Sheldrick also considered whether the aerial tramway is "peak transit," a term that's become both a meme and a battle cry in the group.
“Peak by height, possibly, but peak by mode? I'm not too sure,” said Sheldrick. “The vocal funicular supporters of NUMTOT will also challenge that claim.”
Flipping the stats on the aerial tramway emoji is no easy task — after all, what do you actually do with it?
Even “emoji historian” Jeremy Burge, the founder of Emojipedia, isn't so sure.
“I’m trying to think of when I’ve used the aerial tramway emoji and I’m quite sure I’ve only used it in the literal sense, when coming across one in real life that closely matched the same color yellow,” Burge told BuzzFeed News.
Another challenge the tramway faces? There are actually two other emojis that are practically indistinguishable from it — the “suspension railway” (🚟) and “mountain cableway” (🚠).
The tramway’s biggest hope might come from some creative misuse — just think of the lowly eggplant (🍆), which has found new life thanks to sexting.
“I feel like people have a way to come up with obscure sexual meanings for just about any emoji so I'd be interested to see if this one has any!” said Burge.
The aerial tramway has not yet budged as the “least used emoji” on Twitter, 73 days and counting.
But that could all change soon.
“It could be any day now, or it could be another month or more,” said Jeremy of @LeastUsedEmoji.
Jeremy said he doesn't know why @LeastUsedEmoji has inspired people to try to “save” the aerial tramway, but “honestly I really admire that kind of initiative.”
“I guess it's an underdog story and people really want to see them succeed,” he said.