Daisy Alioto sends around a (very short) emoji questionnaire.
For the past three years, my preferred heart emoji has been 💕 and I expected it to stay that way. I like the diagonal thrust of the hearts, the way they function like a forward slash, fencing in the end of a sentence.
I noticed that during her recent pregnancy, my best friend started using the white heart and I found that intriguing. The 🤍 essentially becomes invisible to the recipient unless your phone is in dark mode. It’s also hard to see on this Substack background (#eaf1e8 if you were wondering.)
As my best friend’s due date approached, I found myself using the white heart more and more. It was emoji transference, a symbol of my alignment with her changing body and life. I began to think of the emoji heart as a Victorian bouquet, encrypted with private meaning.
So I messaged dozens of my acquaintances on a Sunday afternoon to ask the all-important question: which heart emoji do you use, and why? Vanity Fair has their Proust Questionnaire, Desert Island Discs has their whole thing. Maybe this will be a recurring feature on Dirt (sound off in the comments.)
Which heart emoji do you use and why?
“i used to use 💖 platonically and ❤️ only romantically, but now i pretty much only use ❤️! the only special reason for the change (and the emoji loyalty) is that only ❤️happened to be in my recently used emojis when i went looking for 💖 lol, no other rhyme or reason to it” — Rax King, author of Tacky
“Just ❤️... I’m 52 years old and like I just don’t think about the shit that much so there’s like a heart and so I just hit the heart. I didn’t know there was another heart emoji and I also don’t care… I mean I don’t care for my own purposes.” — Sarah Miller, writer
“🧡 Its a good color c: friendly and powerful at the same time.” — Nicole Ruggiero, 3D Artist & Director
“❣️ primarily because it is small, but also because it seems delightful, daunting, and fun. i recently learned that it’s supposed to be an exclamation point ‘!’ whose line has been rendered with a classic heart, which gives off the savviness of a grade school love letter.” — Eileen Isagon Skyers, Communications Director at Foundation
“💕 it feels fun n flirty when used for people you are acquainted with and like ~double love~ when u send to an intimate” — Jamie Hood, poet and writer
“Can’t parse the semiotics of the rest of them so default to the generic red ❤️” — Mark Byrne, co-founder Good Liquorworks
“I use the classic ❤️ because I’ve never felt a genuine claim to any of the other ones. (Should i pivot to 💕 softboi?)” — Ellis Hamburger, head of marketing @ Snapchat
“I use ❤️ and 💕 the most. I think they’re more sincere than a yellow or purple heart?” — Safy Hallan Farah, writer and artist
“I use two different hearts. ❤️ is my go to because it’s super corny and perhaps too sentimental and mushy. 🤍 I started using this bad boy when I realized that ppl were maybe overthinking my red heart usage.” — Evan Kleekamp, development director and researcher
“I use < 3. I'm not a fan of the more cartoonish emojis. These just strike me as a font. Or a cave drawing. They seem quiet and un-showy. Like, scribbling on a piece of paper.” — Brandon Stosuy, EIC The Creative Independent
“Oh man, this is something I’ve always wrestled with. I have evolved my heart emoji usage quite a bit. The heart emoji is such an indirect, but cordial response. I’ve gone from classic to red, then second guessed myself, ‘Surely I’m a bit more cultured than classic red? But can I do black? Am I cool enough? Would someone think I’m a tortured soul?’ After hours of agony I arrived on blue. 💙 It never says more than you need. But is always a bit more joy…followed by a cowboy hat if I’m feeling happier.” — Jeremy Kirkland, writer and host Blamo! Podcast
“Wait, there’s more than one?” — Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends
“I’m obsessed with the new heart fire emoji but I can’t get my shit together to update my phone. So I generally use this ❤️ CLASSIQUE. Or the double pink one for a more casual vibe. I used to be very pink heart with the sparkles but now that feels too Petra Collins 2015.” — Jocelyn Silver, managing editor, Gawker
“I use the orange heart a lot, because it strikes me as both warm and neutral. It’s one of the more aesthetically appealing options, too. I like the white and black hearts a lot but rarely use them, maybe because they seem a little stark?” — Cara Blue Adams, author You Never Get It Back
“I just use the regular red heart emoji!” — Nisha Chittal, managing editor, Vox
“I use almost all the colors... Yellow and orange to telegraph warm/sunny energy, blue feels peaceful, white feels chic/sophisticated for some reason? (so does black)... I’ve been leaning into 💖 lately for a little sparkle. And if someone replies something nice to my IG Story, I tend to respond w the heart color that’s closest to whatever color is predominately in the photo/Story (feels moronic to type that out).” — Lane Florsheim, staff writer WSJ Magazine
“I have been into 🤍 recently. It’s pure…” — Blair Beusman, bon vivant
“💗 is currently my most used one. i dont ever use the plain red/green/purple/yellow — red feels too… passionate and familiar; the other colors seem disingenuous and remind me of stickers. I also like the two other pink hearts 💕 💖 they’re playful and flirty but don’t connote a serious ‘i love you’ energy” — Terry Nguyen, reporter Vox
“sincere yet not as on-the-nose / overdone as red… PURPLE” — Mary Childs, co-host Planet Money
“🖤 which i use for work stuff and for people i don't know well because it looks like the CDG heart symbol its a little strict and minimalist which i like. 🤍 or 💜 for instagram posts/stories because sometimes they fit the color palette of the pic. and 💖 for people i am romantically involved with because it has a certain internet culture/e-girl flair to it? i like the sparkles, they make it look special.” — Sascha Amato, writer
“I tend to use the 💘 or the 💝 because they are a bit more dynamic than 💙 💚 💛 etc. Love is a movement, not an object, and the arrow love or the gift love suggest process to me more than the other stationary hearts. However the colourful hearts are useful in their own contexts, blue for sad love, black for goth pals, etc.” — Ana Kinsella, author of LOOK HERE
“I use the yellow heart if I'm chatting with Asian friends lol, sort of a dumb inside joke but kind of nice. And then weirdly otherwise I use a lot of the ♥️ because it seems.....more sophisticated? Idk more like because i used it once and now it's on the menu of recent emojis to access.” — Delia Cai, Vanity Fair writer
“It depends on how I'm feeling, or the context! In the absence of a bisexual flag emoji, I often use the same color hearts around Pride Month: 💖💜💙. My favorite heart is the sparkle heart, actually. It's got a little magic to it, and as a witch, I find that intriguing. Sometimes I'll use it with sparkly magic wands on either side. I often send a black heart or a purple heart when consoling someone about a loss. If I'm using the black heart for fun, though — as I sometimes do, again, because I'm a witch — I'll put some chains or bats on either side.” — Suzy Exposito, reporter Los Angeles Times
“I personally love the 😍🥰😘 anthropomorphized heart emojis. Hearts❤️ ♥️ 🖤 can be useful but they’re too pure of a symbol for me to be entirely comfortable with them. I like to place my own cartoon ego in the center, going all heart-eyed or being overwhelmed with love, or blowing that heart-bubble out with a kiss. It feels more vulnerable. What fun are emojis if they can’t reduce us a little bit.” — Geoff Rickly, singer and songwriter
“My two go-tos are 💕 and 💗... the way i use them is kind of like punctuation; the two hearts are a comma or semicolon and the beating heart is a period/exclamation point. ❤️ is earnest and also means i might be on my computer—i also tend to double up emoji for effect.” — Larissa Pham, author Pop Song
“My go to is 💗. I like that it looks like love and warmth is radiating off of it. It has an energy that vibrates without being distracting. Plus the layered rings remind me of the Powerpuff Girls heart background, which makes me partial to it because that animation style has always been fly to me.” — Evan Nicole Brown, writer The Hollywood Reporter