There’s no more universal sign of love than a heart. The traditional red heart has become the default signal of approval on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and countless other apps. According to Apple, the red heart emoji was the second-most popular emoji in 2017, bested only by the crying-laugh face. When Facebook released its emoji data last year, hearts were included in three of the top six emojis used (the classic red heart, along with the heart-eyes emoji and the kissing face with a heart).
“The top emojis used on most platforms tend to be positive,” says Jeremy Burge, an emoji historian and the founder of Emojipedia. “Things like hearts are always popular, which makes sense given that we hopefully spend more time chatting to people we like than people we don’t.”
But which heart to send can be a fraught choice. Different people have different preferences and there’s always the terrifying possibility that your message will be warped by the receiver’s operating system or carrier. The yellow heart emoji on iPhone, for instance, used to translate into a hairy monstrosity on Android, though it was fixed in a later update to the OS.
Even if your heart is not lost in translation, certain hearts are rife for misinterpretation. Most users agree that the green heart stands as a universal sign of jealousy, according to Burge, and some Twitter users have affectionately deemed the black version the “goth heart,” but the meanings behind the remaining symbols are arbitrary and subjective. Some people even assign different-colored hearts to different friends. “I’m sure there is a secret language to those pink emoji hearts. Which I’ll never figure out,” lamented one Twitter user.