The Duplicity of an Emoji

The Duplicity of an Emoji


“I love you.” Not like, “I love you and want to marry you” but “I love your guts”. Why are words so confusing? The Greeks had 6 versions for “love”. Eros represented passion and desire. Philia stood for a deep friendship. Ludus was used for playful love, similar to flirting. Agape represented a love for everyone and charitable love. The 5th version for love was Pragma: a deep standing love as found in married couples. The last form was Philautia known as a love for oneself. Today, we have bypassed the Greeks and live in a technically advanced proverbial soup of emojis. Emojis are sneaky little creatures. They appear simple enough right? I mean, they are just characters on a screen. Seems to me, though, they are not as stoic as we might assume.


Take the “wink” emoji for example. To me, this wink means “It’s cool” or “I understand what you’re saying.” However, I have been told it could mean you are sending a flirt (or in ancient Greek, ludas). Whaaat? The wink leads a double life? I use this emoji every day and in no form what-so-ever do I intend it to be a signal of flirtation. I certainly hope I have not led any of my friends astray!

Ah! The smiley emoji; also used every day. This is an unassuming emoji, right? It means “I’m happy” or “I’m happy for you.” One could categorize this emoji as agape or sending love to all people. On the other hand, I have used it to say “I just said what I said and I meant it but don’t be mad at me…” This seemingly simplistic emoji has now become a scapegoat for socially awkward moments when the truth escapes our mouth when it should have remained silently in our heads.

What about the sunglasses emoji? I don’t use this emoji too frequently but when I do I am implying “that’s cool”. However, what if its true personality is glaring at me right through its darkened lens? What if this emoji really means philautia; a “my future is so bright I have to wear shades” kind of arrogant self-love? Nah, this little cool dude could never be so egotistical, agreed?


I just started using the heart eyes emoji. You know the one: the yellow, round face with hearts pulsating from the eye socket? I find myself sending it when a friend shares an image of an outrageously cute outfit or a makeup look I must instantly recreate. Emojis are tricky, though, and this could signal eros or passionate love. Can you passionately love a pair of perfectly styled booties?


Let’s look at the duplicity of the wink and kiss emoji. So many interpretations! I just think it’s cute. Being married for over ten years, I find myself sending this one to my husband. Aha! The wink and kiss can be categorized into the ancient Greek word for love: pragma. But what if you’re not married and you send this charming little emoji? What does that mean? I also send it to my friends but I haven’t been married to them for ten years. You’re killing me emojis!


The crying but laughing emoji: one of my favorites! I send it to mean “Rolling-on-the-floor-balling-my-eyes-out-but-not-really-because-I-don’t-roll-on -the-floor…” or “I’m too lazy to really say how funny that was.” This little emoji is the most simple and safest to send in my opinion. No double meaning here, just philia and a deep friendship; or is there something I’m missing?

I’m a huge fan of the ancient Greeks and the apparently naive use of emojis in this hurried and hectic world. I do not intend for the emojis I send to ever mean anything other than what I intend them to mean; but how does the receiving end interpret my innocent little yellow faces? The more I think about it, the more complicated they become. In a time and place where love was categorized and positioned neatly in a box; I have a feeling even Socrates would have a field day contemplating the classifications of our duplicitous modern emojis.