- 1 History
- 2 Bitmoji Basics
- 3 Additional Style Choices
- 4 Bitmoji Uses
- 5 Ethical Concerns
- 6 References
Bitmoji is a product of the Canadian company Bitstrips, which was founded in 2008 by Toronto-based Jacob Blackstock and Jesse Brown. Post-college, Blackstock worked in the cartoon and animation industry and was inspired by that experience to start Bitstrips. Bitstrips was originally developed to create customized comic strips for those with less creative capabilities. In 2014, Bitstrips created a spinoff called Bitmoji, which is a service that provides users an alternative way to communicate with others through personalized emojis. As a brand of the Bitstrips company, Bitmoji fits into almost all social media platforms’ communication methods. It is believed that the concept of Bitmojis fills a communication void humans have been facing without even knowing it, that in which facial expressions and emotions are absent from most forms of virtual communication. Cell phones and social media are common ways to communicate with others and Bitmoji brings back a variation of face-to-face interaction over messaging with human-like characters who display different emotions and activities.
Face FeaturesWhen creating a Bitmoji, users are first prompted to take a selfie that
In addition to the facial feature options Bitmoji gives users, the body features are also customizable. Users can choose to portray themselves as larger or smaller through their stomach and waist and can also alter breast and muscle size. Users are also able to customize their bitmoji's clothing and other accessories. They can choose from a wide range of options such as professional clothing or different kinds of uniforms. This opportunity to choose physical features pressures users to fulfill social norms and expectations, which can lead to falsely representing themselves. The ability to alter features in this way may pressure users to fulfill social norms and expectations, which can lead them to inaccurately represent themselves.
Additional Style Choices
Bitmoji has partnered with several brands to offer its users branded clothing options for their bitmoji. There are sports-related clothing options such as Nike and Adidas, as well as NHL, NFL, and NBA gear. Such options allow users to show their support for their favorite teams and clothing brands. Brands such as Forever21 and Steve Madden have also partnered with Bitmoji, and avatars can be dressed similarly to their users who may (or may not) shop at these stores. Bitmoji has also advertised movie releases such as Ghostbusters and Batman V Superman, by providing options for users to dress up their Bitmoji likeness like the main characters from these films.
Bitmoji provides the option for users to choose the outfit dressings of their personal bitmoji, with the intent of allowing users to convey their personality through representation of their clothing style. The application offers a variety of virtual outfits: jerseys with specific team names, classic hoodies, and jeans, some of which are offered through Bitmoji's own fictional lines such as the Bitmoji Collezione, Bitmo-Tees, and Basics X Bitmoji. In addition to these lines, there are also several seasonal lines such as Bitmoji Harvest, Brrrmoji, and Bitmoji Sun. These are available during any season of the year for users who enjoy dressing their Bitmoji appropriate to the season.
The application additionally offers virtual attire choices specific to various occupations. For example, Bitmojis may be dressed in a doctor's coat, or a firefighter's helmet and jacket. For women, Bitmoji offers the option of dressing their personal bitmoji in maternity clothing, should they wish to depict their state of pregnancy. However, users have the freedom to portray themselves in whichever way they desire, regardless of their physical state of appearance in real life.
Snapchat recently rolled out Bitmoji Deluxe for users who wanted more options to customize their Bitmoji. Users who value a greater attention to detail can update their Bitmoji app to the deluxe version, with the upgraded features allowing them to change their base avatar style . This new update contains 40 new skin tones as well as 50 new hairstyles that can be subject to different hairstyling treatments, such as coloring or texturizing . An added feature of Bitmoji Deluxe is the ability to use a selfie as reference while simultaneously creating a bitmoji. The user can pull up their own photo and compare each feature during the creation process, allowing users to create a more accurate avatar for themselves. The new updates have allowed a more inclusive representation through the application, particularly for user groups often overlooked or forgotten in avatar creation. due their unique styles or specific minority backgrounds.
What Bitmoji is Used For
Bitmojis are used for a variety of reasons. If used on Snapchat, Bitmojis are accessed through the “sticker” feature, where a user can access the full keyboard of their own Bitmoji and add them to any snap. In addition, Bitmojis can be seen “live” when used through a filter. There are many different options of Bitmojis that portray everyday activities, emotions and feelings. They can be pictured playing sports, cooking meals, or expressing feelings of stress or excitement. A Bitmoji can even be pictured interacting with other user’s Bitmojis’s if one is replying directly back to a friend on Snapchat.
Where Bitmoji is Used
Bitmojis are versatile in the way they can be used in many different messaging applications and websites. With compatibility functions to incorporate the Bitmoji software in IOS and Android processes, Bitmoji can be used on any application within those realms. For example, users can send their personalized Bitmoji via iMessage, Snapchat, and Google Chrome along with other messaging platforms. Through IOS, Bitmoji is enabled on a user’s phone by simply adding the Bitmoji keyboard in the settings options. Google play, for Android users, also accepts the Bitmoji keyboard through its Google Keyboard. Apart from the mobile application usage, Bitmojis can also be used on desktops. Google Chrome is a large proponent of Bitmojis and allows users to use them while communicating through platforms such as Google Mail and Google Messenger on a desktop. The seamless transition from using Bitmojis from mobile devices and tablets to desktops makes the service versatile so that people can easily communicate with others around the world.
A Bitmoji can represent a person and how they would like to be perceived on Snapchat. Snapchat users have the ability to create a virtual representation of themselves by altering face structure, body shape, and clothing style. Accuracy, as described by Richard Mason, is one of the four issues of the Information Age. . The accuracy of a Bitmoji is determined by the original creator but can have different characteristics than the creator. A user has the opportunity to look younger, prettier, skinnier, and more athletic etc. Bitmojis can hold non-normative identities where users represent themselves in ways that might not be socially acceptable. This identity is a personal choice by the creator. The concept of ethical acculturation applied in this context may explain that a user’s actual self is in sync with their online identity or the extent to which their online identity adopts and adapts traditions and values of the cultural background with which they associate outside of the online space.. When using a Bitmoji, ethical acculturation is impaired when there is a lack of balance between the true physical identity and the digital one. Smith and Watson explain that self-presentation is performative. . The presentation of ourselves is tailored to what we want and we believe society wants from us.
The way that a user chooses to represent their Bitmoji can closely correlate to the way that the user wants to be perceived by their peers. Choosing a Detroit Lions jersey as the outfit for a Bitmoji would indicate that the user is a fan of that team. However much truth there is to that representation is unknown. Bitmoji even allows users to dress their character in a professional attire such as a firefighter suit or a chef to demonstrate one’s career interests. Users can build a bitmoji that is inspired from a particular person's features, and this allows for misrepresentation to potentially occur.
Once a user creates a Bitmoji, they can go back as many times as they want to change different parts of its appearance. This can be deceiving to those who receive the Bitmoji because the appearance of one’s digital identity is changing to fit the model society has deemed ‘normal’ for people to look like. Whether it is having long or short hair, blue eyes or brown eyes, or a slimmer body, people can change how they want others to see them through this application. The ethics behind doing this derives from the misrepresentation of one’s self to please society. An avatar, as Sam and Watson explain, “facilitate identity tourism”. An embodied identity is not altered with someone’s avatar but the way someone uses it to represent themselves can impose ethical implications. Much like online dating culture, users choose to either compound their positive traits when creating a digital or online persona and can often represent themselves as a future self where they have improved upon their less-attractive qualities.
Upon downloading Bitmoji, users are asked to grant the application "Full Keyboard Access" in order to use the application. While the company claims that this is necessary in order to render personal Bitmoji images on a user's device, user's have raised concerns about the application storing data about what they are typing.  While the company claims they are not using keyboard access to gain and retain this information, it is not outside of their technical ability to do so. The application does not record keystroke information, but they do collect usage related data such as what types of stickers a user tends to send and from what kind of device they are sending from  Although these are all technically agreed on by the user upon downloading, there is an ethical concern that data obtained about a user could be leaked or used without their explicit permission. Furthermore, when the user grants "Full Keyboard Access," the application does not provide more information about what that entails.
SnapMap was first introduced to Snapchat in June 2017. Snapchat allows their users to use their personally crafted Bitmoji to share their location with other users on the app. Using a pinch gesture on the screen, users can see snaps from people around the world. In the privacy settings, users have the option to share location with their friends. If a user opts to share their location, their Bitmoji will be seen on the SnapMap of their exact location with all of their friends. An alternative is allowing location to be viewed exclusively by a selecting a group of friends. Otherwise, Snapchat users will be in "Ghost Mode." The location will not be shared with anyone. The location setting can be changed anytime. Locations are only updated when a user is utilizing the app. Exact location expires after inactivity. 
The SnapMap update is increasing social and ethical problems. It allows users to have control of the privacy, but also lends problems of safety concern. In the United States, 60% of the users are between the ages of 13-24 years old.  The updated has made law enforcement and other public entities issue public statements on the issues of safety anyone who uses the app. It can be a tool for online predators to track other individuals and cause harm. 
Bitmoji provides a list of permissions the user has consented to upon downloading the application. This includes but is not limited to:
- In-app purchases: Bitmoji can ask users to make purchases inside the app
- Device and app history: Bitmoji can retrieve running apps
- Identity: Bitmoji can find accounts on the users’ device and read the users’ own contact card
- Contacts: Bitmoji can find accounts on the device, read the users’ contacts, and modify users’ contacts
- Phone: Bitmoji can read phone status and identity
- Photos/Media/Files and Storage: Bitmoji can read the contents of the users’ USB storage and modify or delete the contents of the users’ USB storage
- Camera: Bitmoji can take pictures and videos
- Microphone: Bitmoji can record audio
- Wi-Fi connection information: BItmoji can view Wi-Fi connects
- Device ID and call information: Bitmoji can read phone status and identity
- Other: Bitmoji can receive data from the internet, view network connections, full network access, run at startup, draw over other apps, and prevent device from sleeping
Bitmoji states that they have the ability to automatically add additional capabilities within each permission group without notifying the user.