The Terrors of the Side-Eye Emoji

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Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

The side-eye emoji is perhaps the most flexible emoji in meaning and usage. Described on Emojipedia as “Unamused Face,” side-eye is also used to express skepticism, disinterest, irritation, disappointment, irony, and suspicion. But side-eye reaches its full potential in the opaque language of Snapchat friend badges, where it symbolizes a one-way relationship. This week on New York Magazine’s Sex Lives podcast, “Snapchat Is for Flirting” author Priscilla Pine teaches a master class on digital flirtation — and explains what digital relationships can teach us about our IRL love lives.

This is a partial transcript of New York Magazine’s Sex Lives podcast, edited for clarity and length. To leave voice-mail for Sex Lives, call 646-494-3590.

Priscilla: One thing that Snapchat does do, is that it sort of ranks the people that you talk to the most frequently. You can see when you’re in the messages screen, little emoji pop up. So, if, say, there’s someone who you messaged the most, and they also also messaged you the most of everybody they follow on Snapchat? You will get a little heart emoji next to the message.

Maureen: I recall that. And you know, that’s when I got annoyed at Snapchat. Because I was like, ‘I don’t actually like that person best! Stop it. Why did you give a heart to that person, but not my boyfriend? Now I just feel guilty.’

Priscilla: The guy I’ve been involved with for a while is my best friend [on Snapchat] right now. And if he wasn’t I would be irritated. Because, who else is he talking to?

Maureen: So it’s reflecting whether you’re his top, too.

Priscilla: Yes. It has to be mutual, or you don’t get the heart. If it’s not mutual — if somebody is your best friend on Snapchat, but you’re not theirs— you can’t graduate to heart. You’ll get like a little a blushing smiley emoji.

Maureen: The heart is such a game-changer, knowing that you both talk to each other more than anyone else.

Priscilla: And then, in the tiers below the the heart emoji, you can have four or five good friends. They’re the people you talk to not as much as your best friend, but a lot, and more than the average person you talk to.

Maureen: Is there a way to tell if it’s mutual?

Priscilla: No. The creepy thing about this — and this one drives me insane— because it will show up if they’re one of your best friends, like a blushing smiley face, but the other person? If it shows up for you, but you’re not one of their best friends? It shows up as a little side-eye …

Maureen: [shouting] Oh my god!

Priscilla: … to tell them that you’re one of their best friends, but they’re not one of yours.

Maureen: So if you have your Snapchat, and you have Maureen O’Connor next to a little side-eye on it, that says, “Maureen is so obsessed with you but you’re not that into her”?

Priscilla: Yes.

Maureen: That is so intense, and that is the most accurate description of what the side-eye emoji means.

The Terrors of the Side-Eye Emoji