Watch Out For These Emoji Red Flags When Texting A Potential New Partner

For many of us, texting is our main mode of communication. No matter what we have to say, we can send a quick text message, and, between acronyms and emojis, get our point across quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to use these image shortcuts correctly. And when you try to have a conversation with someone who doesn't, you may end up staring at your phone trying to figure out what they are trying to say. In the words of the character Ray from this scene in the iconic series "Girls," "A panda next to a gun next to a wrapped gift? It makes no sense." And, it really doesn't.


But we've become so accustomed to using emojis in text messages that they actually affect our brains and how we read people. "Different regions of the brain light up when you're looking at emojis compared to not looking at emojis," Linda Kaye, a senior lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University, tells CNN. "We see something neurologically different, implying they function as non-verbal." Because of this, the emojis someone uses or how they use emojis, in general, can be quite revealing. So revealing, in fact, that when it comes to a potential new partner, some emoji behaviors can be glaring red flags. 

Overusing emojis

Emojis have a time and a place. You probably wouldn't use a lot of emojis in an email to your boss or to a client if you're trying to make a good impression because it can send the wrong message. In fact, as reported by Entrepreneur, research has found that people who use emojis in the workplace are deemed incompetent compared to those who don't use them.


Although a personal text between two people who just met on an app or just started dating is hardly the same environment as the workplace, the impression it gives off is the same: someone who overuses emojis is avoiding having an actual conversation. Doing this, obviously, isn't going to be great for your dating life. "If you're looking to make the most of your matches in 2023, then you can create some easy wins by avoiding common dating turn-offs," Hayley Quinn, a dating expert for Match, tells WalesOnline. "Examples being the overuse of emojis, as they now look dated and uncool." Well, then. 

If you just met someone and they're already overloading each chat with smiley faces, hearts, and monkeys, think about the types of emoji-riddled messages you might get when things progress and you want to have a serious conversation. Emojis shouldn't be used in place of real dialogue; they can easily become a crutch for those who can't or don't want to communicate.


Using the thumbs-ups emoji

According to consumer research, as reported by Psychology Today, using the thumbs-up emoji not only makes people seem old-fashioned, but can also be seen as rude. "People from younger generations are trying to avoid the thumbs-up emoji as they see it as passive aggressive and a low effort response," Ken Broni, editor-in-chief of Emojipedia, tells DailyMail.


And, when you think about it, using the thumbs-up emoji really is only giving a fraction of the effort that many people want and that most deserve. It can come across as dismissive and on par with saying "that's cool" over and over again to things that aren't even cool. So, not only should the thumbs-up emoji be a red flag, but if someone is using a lot of them? Whoa, Nelly. It may leave you wondering when they will actually have an opinion or two to share with you instead. 

Responding with unrelated or inappropriate emojis

Not everyone knows how to appropriately use emojis, and that's okay! But when you throw a question out there and the person you're texting responds with an emoji out of left field that makes zero sense, this could be a red flag. They may just have no idea what they're doing, or this may be a sign of underlying issues. 


"If you ask a partner to meet you for dinner and receive a 'shrugging' emoji in response, the 'shrugging' emoji may be a sign of disinterest in the relationship or sheer overwhelm due to a long day at work," clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D. tells BestLife. "The goal, in this case, would be to talk with your partner about the meaning of the emoji use... It's important to have an honest discussion to get to the root of these 'red flag' responses." 

While talking to your partner about what they really mean when they use certain emojis is definitely a good idea, you may find yourself needing to unpack a lot. This can lead you to decide if you want to move forward with this person or slow things down.


Substituting emojis for real emotions

Emotions, especially if you're getting to know someone, should be shared. So if you're texting with someone and they resort to the sad or happy face emojis, instead of using actual words to express these feelings, you may want to take a hard look at what that means. Are they so uncomfortable with their emotions, that they can't even type the words out? While that may not be the case for everyone who opts for emojis over words, it's still indicative of something not being totally on the up and up with them.


According to a 2023 study published in "Frontiers in Psychology," some people use emojis to hide how they really feel about things. Not only do they rely on emojis to avoid expressing authentic emotions, but some use happy emojis when they're anything but happy.

This behavior might suggest that the person on the other end isn't exactly high on the emotional intelligence scale. "If we are all more emotionally intelligent, we are less likely to have excessive arguments with our partners," life coach Puja McClymont tells Stylist. "We will be more aware of allowing them space to air their grievances and then choose how we want to respond, rather than reacting to what we're hearing." 

Sending love-related emojis to other people

Although levels of affection vary from person to person, it goes without saying that there are certain emojis you don't text to certain people. Flirty or other suggestive types of emojis that are being sent to people, such as work colleagues or others that your partner calls "just friends," should raise not just an eyebrow, but a red flag, too. Although it's not a full-picture view of what could really be going on, considering how prevalent texting is in our culture as a means to communicate, this behavior is something worth noting. 


Will your new partner run off with every person they send a heart emoji to? Probably not. Does it mean there's possibly a crush there? Maybe. This is the type of situation that makes for a great opportunity to talk about and set healthy boundaries – a chat that should always be had sooner rather than later. 

Sending suggestive emojis way too early

It may be cute to get a kissy face from someone with whom you've had a date, but if they're leaning into the heart and kissy face emojis before you meet, it can look a little desperate. If they're throwing the eggplant and peach into the mix early on too, then beware. According to the 2018 study by Plenty of Fish, 75% of eggplant emojis and 49% of peach emojis never get a reply. 


And while not everyone got the memo that those veggies are fairly uncouth these days, seeing them should at least make you pause and wonder if the potential match is something worth pursuing. Unless, of course, you're looking for something casual. In that case, bring on the innuendos! 

While these are some emoji red flags in the U.S., it's important to realize that emojis aren't a universal language. If you're traveling through China and chatting with a local, an angel emoji could be seen as a threat, instead of you proclaiming your sweet, innocent nature. While in Greece or the Middle East, the thumbs-up emoji isn't perceived as passive or low-effort, but offensive.