The One Emoji That Means True Love

Emoji hearts are hard to read but there’s one that beats them all.

Hands holding smartphones with a beating heart emoji
showcake / Fotolia / The Atlantic

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.

There is one heart emoji, however, that communicates love so deeply and effectively that it’s shocking it isn’t more frequently used. That emoji is the Wi-Fi heart: 💓.

The Wi-Fi heart, known to many as the “beating heart,” is a simple pink heart with dual Wi-Fi-symbol signals emanating from its humps. Since it was introduced, those who interpret the emoji as a beating heart have used it to represent life or love. But I find that many people don’t recognize its hidden meaning—true love—and that probably explains why it’s not more widely used. According to data Burge pulled for me from Emojipedia, the Wi-Fi heart is neither most nor least used of all the emoji hearts. It’s solidly in the middle of the pack. (The most used is the classic red, the least is the cut-out heart: 💟.)

Wi-Fi itself has long stood as a metaphor for love and connection. As Yung Bruh (now known as Tracy) rapped in a 2016 collaboration with Lil Peep entitled “White Tee,” referring to a woman he had fallen for at a club, “She go home with me tonight then we connect like Wi-Fi.”* Wi-Fi has also become an essential human utility, something that you can’t live without. “Wi-Fi is love, Wi-Fi is life,” reads one laptop skin for sale on Redbubble. “Are you Wi-Fi? ’Cause we have a great connection,” reads a Valentine’s Day card. Urban Outfitters recently peddled a “love you more than Wi-Fi” mug.

Affixing this powerful symbol to a classic pink heart turns a benign emoji into something more meaningful. The Wi-Fi heart communicates that you love a person or thing so profoundly that you couldn’t live without it. It symbolizes a strong and unique connection. While the classic red emoji heart communicates a bland and generic love, the Wi-Fi heart stands for something deeper and more essential.

Thankfully, some users have started to catch on and embrace the new meaning of the most meaningful emoji. “Is there any variation of the heart emojis more sincere than the little Wi-Fi heart?“ asked one woman recently on Twitter. “This heart is the most meaningful of all hearts because it’s the Wi-Fi heart so if I send you this you’re pretty important to me,” said another user. “It’s Wi-Fi heart,” tweeted a third. “Enable everywhere.”

* This post previously misidentified the musician rapping in "White Tee." We regret the error.