The Clouding of Consciousness

I haven’t been literally living in a fog the past year …. but it sure feels like it

This week, emoji keyboards grew a tiny bit: A number of new additions including Face Exhaling 😮‍💨, Face with Spiral Eyes 😵‍💫, Face in Clouds 😶‍🌫️, Heart on Fire ❤️‍🔥, and a Mending Heart❤️‍🩹 are now at your fingertips.1 While all of these emoji are projecting strong 2020 vibes, one stands out in particular: 😶‍🌫️.

We’ve all seen it before. A FACE IN CLOUDS. It is a common visual trope to describe a number of mental states including but not limited to mild cognitive impairments or ::cough: mild cognitive impairments 🍃 or camouflage like hiding behind something. While not a medical term, “Brain fog” 😶‍🌫️ is used frequently as catch-all to describe memory problems, lack of mental clarity and/or an inability to focus. I admit, as I write this I’m struggling with concentrating and absent-mindedly googled “brain fog” and … woa.

These auto fill suggestions reveal a lot about our collective struggle these days. Even before Covid, mild cognitive impairments like these were not uncommon. About 40% of people aged 65 or older have age associated memory impairment. 14% of men and women aged between 18 and 39 complained of poor memory.

Hi. I am definitely one of those people. I’m… talented at losing things. Once, I misplaced my phone for six-months. I found it in my kitchen. In the …. kitchen cabinet. In …. a …. tea box 😒. Apparently, on the last cold day of the year I made myself a cup of tea and replaced the tea bag with my phone (which fit too perfectly inside the box). I did not make another cup of tea until the Earth rotated a number of times before it got cold again. >_>

My tendency to forget things like where I put my keys is not atypical of people with ADHD. I’ve been told my whole life that ADHD is a superpower but really, I struggle with it. I lose important documents and things, I get distracted easily, I forget what I was doing …. and those aren’t super powers. It makes me seem like a total flake. Not being neurotypical can make it extremely difficult to convey who I am and what I feel with words, never mind emoji.

One thing emoji are effective at is conveying non-literal ideas in literal ways. My head may not spin around like “🙃”, but it’s a vibe. My head is not literally exploding ofc but you get the idea. We talk in metaphor online alot (When something I read hits hard I don’t “identify with it” … I “feel attacked!!” ). Similarly, I haven’t been literally living in a fog the past year …. but it sure feels like it.

ofc there’s a literal use of the image as well. Despite the lack of an explicit marijuanna leaf emoji there are already a ton that do the trick. And now, we can add 😶‍🌫️ to the mix.




There you have it. The many faces of FACE IN CLOUDS, the newest emoji to illustrate a state of mind (or many states of minds). 😶‍🌫️


If you can’t read these emoji … I’m sorry. Try updating your OS if you can.