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Oops, you used the peach! Local influencer helps seniors navigate emoji etiquette

Markham social media influencer Tiana Shern is helping to bridge the generational gap in emoji use in a national ad campaign
Screenshot from the ad showing Tiana Shern educating a senior about the peach emoji during the Simply Spiked Peach Campaign.

Twenty-six-year-old Tiana Shern never thought she'd be teaching older Canadians about emoji etiquette, but that's exactly what she did in a recent national ad campaign. The campaign, part of Simply Spiked Peach's survey, revealed that 96 per cent of Canadians over 60 don't associate the peach emoji (πŸ‘) with its risqué double entendre, highlighting the generational gap in emoji use.

Shern was selected to help bridge the gap since the Markham-based dancer has more than 1.4 million followers across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. In the campaign, she explains to older Canadians the hidden meanings behind some emojis and shares tips on responsible emoji use.

The ad has been viewed more than 22 million times, with Shern's own video gaining more than 1.2 million views on Instagram.

According to the survey, generation Zers and Millennials typically use the peach emoji to refer to one’s backside (65 per cent), with under a third of gen-Xers (30 per cent) and very few seniors 60+ (four per cent). Moreover, half of Canadians 60+ did not recognize the peach, apple or eggplant emojis while 96 per cent of Canadians 60+ don’t think of the double entendre when they see the peach emoji (πŸ‘).

"The statistic was quite shocking," Shern said, being around others in her age group who only use the peach emoji in reference to a butt had subconsciously convinced her that this was common knowledge.

Shern acknowledges that emojis can have different interpretations depending on the generation, suggesting that older Canadians should consult with gen Z to avoid misunderstandings. She also mentioned a few other emojis that could be misinterpreted, like apples, bananas, eggplants, cherries, the crying face, the devil face, smirking face and the chili pepper.

“Some emojis I would consider to be avoided if not trying to insinuate a sexual undertone would be πŸ‘…πŸ†πŸ‘πŸ’¦πŸŒΆ and of course: πŸ‘‰πŸ‘Œ,” she added.

While Shern believes that most emojis are relatively innocent smileys and people emojis are generally safe and straightforward since they represent facial expressions, fruits tend to be used for contexts that are more risqué, she explains, as they tend to resemble specific body parts.

For seniors who have no clue how to properly use emojis when texting, Shern suggests considering that context is everything. “If you meant it innocently, don’t feel so bad if it was misinterpreted, but maybe consult a gen Z to ensure you’re peaching responsibly,” she emphasizes.

Although Shern is big influencer now, she was very shy growing up and started off as a self-taught dancer, spending hours watching YouTube dance videos and dance tutorials. "One day I worked up the courage to ask my mom to sign me up for a dance workshop at a local studio. Since then, I've been training at studios all over the world."

While social media and content creation are now her full-time job, Shern keeps posting free online dance tutorials on her YouTube channel. She called it "a bit of a full circle moment," as she is teaching shy youth on the other side of the screen.

Shern credits her success to her passion for what she does. "It's because I was so obsessed with what I was doing that I could keep going even when no one was watching my content. People find time for the things they love, so I always made time to create," she explained.

Her advice for aspiring content creators is simple: love what you're doing and believe in yourself. "Building a personal brand can be tough, but if you're passionate about it, you'll find a way to make it work," she said.

Scarlett Liu is a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative reporter at the Markham Economist & Sun.