Real Emoji Meanings, As Explained by a Young Person

The emoji mistakes you don't want to make, according to our resident Gen Zer.

October 20, 2021 7:13 am
Are you using these emojis wrong?
Are you using these emojis wrong?

For better or worse, the internet has influenced the English language and the ways in which we communicate with one another. I’d argue that it’s been for the better. Mainly because we now have emojis, tiny little icons to express a variety of emotions: happiness, sadness, confusion and, especially, horniness. Sometimes, these little pictograms sum up our feelings more efficiently than words can.

As with language over time, the meaning of particular emojis has also changed, with their official definition or name slightly, or entirely, differing from how they are actually deployed by internet users. But not everyone is privy to the double meanings of emojis, and this can create some awkward conversations. The eggplant emoji does not simply represent a hardy piece of fruit (yes, eggplant is, in fact, fruit), while the laughing emoji you prefer says a lot about your age, and how internet-savvy you are. 

In order to avoid confusing and embarrassing conversations going forward, below I — InsideHook’s resident Gen-Zer — have broken down the emojis you might be using incorrectly.


Face with Tears of Joy & Rolling on the Floor Laughing

These emojis were ostensibly designed to indicate that the texter finds whatever you have sent them or whatever they are sending you hilarious. Unfortunately, if you use these two emojis to denote laughter, you are a psychopath. 

Yes, that was harsh. But it’s how the Gen-Zers think. You might remember nearly a year ago when there was a purported intergenerational war between millennials and Gen-Zers that was very dumb and mostly made up by millennials who were upset about being out of touch with the latest trends. TLDR (but if you want, you can read all about it here); Gen-Zers on TikTok were making fun of millennials for their side parts, skinny jeans and emoji usage, specifically the laughing emoji, formally known as Face with Tears of Joy. The younger generation despises this emoji, to the point where some TikTok users banned the emoticon from their feeds. 

It seems over the years, Gen Z subconsciously decided to use the Loudly Crying Face (pictured below) to indicate laughing instead of the actual laughing emoji. Some also find the laughing emoji to be a little creepy. Regardless, you can typically tell someone’s age or if they’re not as internet-savvy by which laughing emoji they use, similar to the OK vs. K debate.

As for the Rolling on the Floor Laughing emoticon, that one just scares me, and I imagine if Face with Tears of Joy freaks people out, this exaggerated version of it is equally (if not more) unsettling. 


Loudly Crying Face

Now, this is the emoji you use to show you find something funny. If you use it to express that you are legitimately upset over something sad, like a death, then the person receiving your sorrowful message will think you’re an insensitive ass, so be careful with this one.

For the most part, though, it’s pretty widely understood this crying face is used not to express loudly crying with tears, but loudly crying with laughter. 



The skull emoji has been the catalyst of many awkward text messages. While traditionally an image of a skull represents literal death, its emoji counterpart is commonly used to express figurative death, as Emojipedia explains, “e.g., dying from extreme laughter, frustration, or affection.”

Please don’t use this icon when informing someone about an actual death, as one Twitter user’s parent did, creating an insensitive yet extremely hilarious juxtaposition, since most receivers will instantly think you’re laughing or making light of a death. 


Triangular Flag

Once associated with golf, the Triangular Flag emoji is now mainly called the red flag emoji thanks to a very recent meme that utilizes the icon. If you see someone using this particular emoji, it’s because they find something, someone or maybe even something you said to be of concern, an issue or, obviously, a giant “red flag.” 



What could possibly be the double meaning behind the chair emoji you may ask? Well, a couple of months ago the kids on TikTok tried to switch the crying/laughing emoji with this icon of a simple wooden chair, mainly to cause confusion for people not privy to the inside joke. So if you see a TikTok comment with a string of chairs, it means the user finds the video funny, while trying to pull one over on the olds. 


Sweat Droplets, Eggplant & Peach

The holy trinity of sex emojis. You might be familiar with the NSFW meanings of these icons, but it’s always nice to have a refresher, especially with these three: 

Sweat Droplets: While it can be used to represent any type of liquid or fluid, the splashing sweat symbol is generally used to illustrate sexual ones. We’ll let you figure out what those are, but be wary the next time you complain about how sweaty you are. 

Eggplant: This “long, bulbous, bright purple eggplant” (Emojipedia’s words, not mine) is widely used to represent a dick. And because of its phallic imagery, it was banned from Facebook and Instagram, along with the peach emoji, in 2019. 

Peach: Last but not least, the ass emoji. Thanks to the detailed cleft on this otherwise cute, pinkish-orange fruit icon, it’s largely used in reference to a nice-lookin’ booty. 



This pair of eyes looking slightly to the left is perfect at conveying any salacious or skeptical thoughts you might be having. Whether it’s in response to a sexy photo or something shady, hit ’em with the shifty eyes.


Man With White Cane

Internet users tend to use this emoji of a man using a white cane to indicate they’re turning a blind eye or pretending not to see something. You can add this one to the list of offensive emoji usages.


Information Desk Woman

There are about a million titles I would give to this emoji before guessing its official name, according to Apple, is “Information Desk Woman.” I’m not even sure what this means, but I suppose her sassily raised hand is meant to invite questions … but it just looks like she’s a sassy bitch who doesn’t care what you have to say. Which is exactly how it is used. It’s also my personal favorite emoji.

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