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Decoding Gen Z’s favourite emojis

Small digital images that accompany text – or emojis as we call them today – have been used pretty much since the beginning of the internet.

Animated and vibrant, they help convey messages and add colour to plain black and white writing. However, it seems this next generation of internet users – also known as Gen Z – are taking things up a notch.

You’ve probably seen some rather unusual emojis cropping up more and more in the comment section of pictures and videos. From double meanings to hilariously smart ways to portray real-life actions using pictures, this list will help you better understand online lingo.

Eye, lips, eye

This peculiar set of emojis can be seen all over social media apps frequented by Gen Z. Used to express shock or awkwardness, the wide-eyes create the expression one would have when gobsmacked or bewildered.

The sequence of emojis rose to popularity after they appeared in the Twitter bios of various tech workers in 2020. Rumours began to spread, garnering massive online attention from those within the industry.

Bewitched by the hype surrounding the mysterious emojis, early adopters were in a tizzy, sending out Tweets and emails. Was it a viral marketing campaign?

The launch of the next big app? And if so, how could they score an invite? But, the jig was soon up. About 60 non-white people working at prominent tech companies like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter created artificial hype to get people to donate to various charities supporting Black trans people and the Black Lives Matter movement.


The blue cap emoji often seems to appear in the comment section of the most bizarre and unbelievable videos, and there is a good reason for it. The word “cap” comes from the slang term “no cap” which means “no lie”.

According to the Website Bustle, “The phrase was popularized back in 2017 when Atlanta-based rappers Young Thug & Future released a track called ‘No Cap,’ where they rap about their cars and jewellery, among other things”.

The term has since resurfaced online and is being used to call out people for exaggerating, lying or embellishing stories online.

The “Cap Police” are self-proclaimed fact-checkers who make it their duty to trawl social media sites to confirm or reject anything from life-hacks to possible fake news.

Clown face

This fun and playful emoji may look harmless enough, but you probably wouldn’t want to find it in the comments section of any of your Tweets, Instagrams or TikToks.

Depicting the face of a circus clown with a white painted face and large red lips, the emoji is used when someone behaves foolishly.

For example, it could be used when someone allowed another person to use them for personal gain or when someone is acting childish or silly. All in all, the emoji is not as playful and happy as it would initially appear to be.

Credit card, spark sequence

The sequence of emojis pretty much means, “shut up and take my money”. They’re used by people when they see something they would like to buy for themselves in videos or pictures online.

The “bang” symbol represents the act of slamming the credit card down on a counter. It’s basically a fun way to express your appreciation or desire for something. It’s also commonly used by fans to hype up artists, actors or celebrities who are launching new music, series, films or products.

When seen in the comments, you immediately know that whatever is being sold is highly coveted.

On the app TikTok, people often share videos of themselves using interesting or enticing products ranging from make-up to skincare and household appliances.

This has sparked the trend of people duetting (resharing) the videos, followed by short clips of themselves smacking their own credit cards on a table.


There are a few yellow smiling face emojis that vary in their expressions, but this one, in particular, is not to be messed with.

While it may appear in texts from parents and grandmas who are none the wiser if anyone younger than 30 uses the emoji in your text conversations, they probably aren’t super pleased.

The subtle smile and dead, expressionless eyes are used in a passive-aggressive manner by Gen Z and millennials. it portrays a lack of enthusiasm for a situation without being too blunt about it.

Fingers pointing inwards

Know Your Meme owes the popularity of this set of emojis to a picture of a man doing the action which turned into a meme as the origins. The symbols are used to express shyness, almost as though you are twiddling your thumbs.

With working and schooling from home becoming the new norm and social interactions being few and far between for most people during 2020 and 2021, it’s no wonder the emojis took off.

Another context the fingers pointing inwards emojis could be used is if someone finds another person to be attractive but are shy about approaching them or sharing a more conventional pick-up line, then the emojis are the perfect way to get the hint across.

Hourglass emoji

In a world where the Kardashian and Jenner sisters pretty much set all the standards for fashion and beauty, the emoji is a sign of the times. Used to measure the passing of time, you’d think the hourglass emoji would reference something similar.

Instead, People comment on this emoji on people’s pictures to complement their curvy figure which resembles the shape of an hourglass.


Gen Z is a pretty sassy bunch. While fairies and sparkles are usually associated with magic and fantasy, the emojis are used for “fairy speak”.

You may have noticed people posting comments with either two fairies or two sparkles on either side. Usually, the comments start out positive or sweet, then at least one word is highlighted by sparkles used to emphasise that particular word.

However, what is being said is either negative, sassy or bad news of sorts but the fairy language helps soften the blow a little.


Apparently the laughing emoji with tear drops is out and the skull emoji is in. The emoji means “dead”, as in “dead funny” which is why you’ll see it being used either to express laughter or if a situation is shocking or embarrassing.

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