Questions Asked As Husband Uses 'Flirtatious' Emoji With Female Co-Worker

A woman has sparked debate online after sharing her upset that her husband has been exchanging red-heart emoji with a colleague.

On the U.K.-based discussion site Mumsnet, user Ineedaslap shared their concerns after seeing that her husband and a female colleague in his IT department had been "reacting" to messages with the heart emoji.

"My husband has been messaging a lass in his IT department about some equipment," the poster wrote. "She has red hearted all his messages, and in his last message where he thanks her he has put a red heart emoji in the message."

Despite admitting that the messages were all innocuous, the spouse was upset. "He says he has never spoken to her before but I am a bit aghast and annoyed at the red hearts," they explained. "He says I am being ridiculous and need to sort my jealousy issues out and that it means nothing."

Man on laptop and emojis
A man smiling looking at his laptop, with an overlay of heart emojis. jacoblund/Liubov Khutter-Kukkonin/Getty Images

Emojipedia, the internet's home for emoji knowledge, previously explained:: "A classic red love heart emoji, used for expressions of love and romance. This is the most popular heart emoji."

The red heart was added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015 and hearts in some form are used across text messages, internet forums, social media and more.

Keith Broni, editor in chief of Emojipedia, told Newsweek: "Ultimately, emoji use comes down to the mutual understanding. If you look at the red heart in particular, it is by far the most-used heart emoji, but it is also the most diverse."

A 2022 survey polled 9,400 hybrid and remote workers, spread across 11 countries—including 1,000 in the U.S. Results revealed that 7 in 10 Americans find messages without emoji to be lacking.

Sixty-nine percent of U.S. employees reported that emojis allowed them to communicate in a more nuanced way with colleagues, while 67 percent said that it sped up communication.

Back on Mumsnet, the original poster explained: "As someone who wouldn't use a red heart in a message to anyone other than my husband, I am not so sure," before asking other users how they would react to the emoji use.

In a discussion with hundreds of replies, users shared their thoughts and were divided about the topic.

"Why messaging and not emailing?" asked one Mumsnet user. "All seems very childish to me."

"I definitely wouldn't like it. The red heart is reserved for romantic love. I thought everyone knew that?!" added one reply.

Another said: "I wouldn't use a heart in the work setting unless one of my good friends at work. Certainly not someone I've never met."

But others couldn't see the issue with the red-heart reaction. One Mumsnet user wrote: "It doesn't sound like this meant anything at all."

Another agreed and said: "Totally normal expression of gratitude where I work—men and women, all ages. Doesn't mean anything beyond appreciation."

"Yes, it has connotations of romance, but it has also been converted in a sense to a catch-all positive response," explained Broni. "In a classic design sense it means love, in an emoji sense it is much more broad than someone responding with a flirtatious or romantic intention."

Beyond the red heart's use as an expression of love or flirtation, Broni explained that different apps and platforms have also changed the way the heart is seen online.

"A platform may convert an emoticon into an emoji that can come across differently," he said. "If you look at a lot of the reaction features are a red heart now, it's a default and automatic. If you look at Instagram, the heart is the default. It hasn't become passe or controversial like the thumbs-up emoji has."

The thumbs-up emoji, while traditionally signifying "yes," "like," or "approval" has changed in meaning with time. Once simply a signal of approval, for younger internet users in Generation Z the thumbs-up emoji is increasingly viewed as sarcastic, hostile or passive-aggressive.

While the thumbs-up emoji is often a default reaction on messaging services, including those used for work like Slack or Microsoft Teams, the heart is also frequently a default reaction for users.

"I red heart a lot—bit more heartfelt than a thanks thumbs up. I think you're being unreasonable," said one Mumsnet user in response to the concerned poster. Another agreed and said: "Thumbs up can come across as pass agg. so people use heart. It's the next one along."

Newsweek was unable to verify the details of this case.

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