Typically in March, a third of Venmo transactions mention basketball in some way. It reflects friends, colleagues, and kin paying into March Madness bracket pools. They’re trying to win big by predicting the outcome of every game in the championship tournament for US college basketball.
But this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, college sports officials canceled the tournament. A Quartz analysis of Venmo transactions shows how the messages accompanying payments on Venmo have drastically changed. For one thing, use of the basketball emoji—🏀—has plummeted.
On the left of this chart, you can see how frequently a 🏀 was used in transactions from March 2017. A 🏀 showed up at a rate of about 4,900 for every 100,000 messages back then. It’s connected with a line to another 🏀 on the right side of the chart. By following it we’ll see just how low usage of the 🏀 has fallen to in March 2020.
It's a lot less. 📉
😬 Let’s save you some suspense. The 🏀 was used about 120 times per 100,000 payments in March 2020.
This data comes from Venmo's public stream of transactions. Our 2017 calculations are based on all 2.5 million transactions made between March 12 to 16, 2017. The public feed now provides a much smaller number of payments. As such, the 2020 calculations are based on 13,700 transactions made between March 12 to April 2, 2020 that represent a subset of all of the public payments on the platform. We excluded emoji in our analysis that had low usage rates in both years.
🏀 usage falls this dramatically because the 2017 time frame covers the precise days 🏀 usage is highest.
In Quartz's sample of transactions from March 2020, ❤️ was the most used emoji. Usage increased 226% from March 2017.
Some messages seem to be related to the pandemic. Venmo and other electronic payment services saw an increase in transactions while the world started to stay at home.
You’re a super woman makin our masks ❤️😷
Groceries . Thank you son, love you❤️
🍕 and 🍻 saw a drop. Restaurants and bars are widely shuttered.
💸 dropped too, but 💵 usage is up.
There’s less to celebrate. 🎉 usage is down.
The 😷 emoji saw usage grow by 2000%.