A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. So, too, at least in the realms of texting and social media, is an emoji. Behold the wide eyes and red cheeks of 😳 Flushed Face.
In recent years, 😳 Flushed Face has made some headlines all on its own. That is, some high-profile figures have used its high eyebrows as a sole form of commentary for topics that might make some people, well, a bit flushed.
For instance, in summer 2017, former White House intern Monica Lewinsky notably tweeted a single 😳 Flushed Face in response to Anthony Scaramucci.
Scaramucci, who served briefly and controversially as Director of Communications under President Donald Trump, likened reporter Ryan Lizza to Linda Tripp, once a colleague of Lewinsky who secretly recorded phone conversations at the center of her political sex scandal with President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
Lewinsky followed up her 2017 😳 Flushed Face with another in January 2019 during a partial shutdown of the US government, calling up the 1995 shutdown when Lewinsky and Clinton first encountered each other.
Lewinsky’s lone blushers convey so much with so little. Shock. Surprise. A sense of ironic embarrassment and self-consciousness perfectly savvy and sharp in the internet age.
As an emoji, it seems 😳 Flushed Face isn’t just worth a thousand words—but a thousand emotions as well. In this Emojiology, no, we’re not going to break down all the political drama, but we are going to get to the bottom of the 😳 Flushed Face emoji.
😳 Flushed Face depicts a smiley with wide eyes and red cheeks, as if blushing with embarrassment, shame, or shyness. It may also convey a wide range of other feelings to varying degrees of intensity, including surprise, disbelief, amazement, excitement, and affection.
While entering into wide release under Unicode 6.0 in 2010, 😳 Flushed Face was already red on Japanese keyboards as early as 2000. That year, SoftBank offered a square smiley animated with a reddish-orange bar of flush spreading over its eyes and nose.
Until rolling out Experience 9.0 in 2018, Samsung featured a more crestfallen character—and, like SoftBank, it also flashed its flush over its nose. This design may seem unusual to many, especially Westerners more accustomed to illustrations of embarrassment with blushing cheeks, but it comes from a visual convention in Japanese magna and anime, which inspired some of the earliest emojis.
In manga and anime, the familiar blush on character’s cheeks does communicate the emotional state of embarrassment, but it's often stylized across the nose, as we see with Samsung’s original design. (In a previous Emojiology, we saw another such manga/anime-derived shorthand in 😪 Sleepy Face’s snot bubble, which indicates feeling tired or being asleep.)
With Experience 9.0 in 2018, Samsung brought its design more in line with Apple’s, which displays wide, white eyes under raised eyebrows, a small, closed mouth, and, of course, its namesake flushed cheeks. Google similarly fashioned its 😳 Flushed Face with Android 8.0 in 2017, updated from its memorably bashful blob in Android 4.4–5.0. So did Microsoft the year before with its Windows Anniversary Update, previously featuring something of a woozier, boozier smiley under its Windows 8.0–8.1 operating systems.
The updates from Microsoft, Google, and Samsung cemented a convergence in form for 😳 Flushed Face, reducing confusion and misunderstanding as it appears across major platforms—but not necessarily a convergence in its meaning. Its platter-sized eyes and sky-scraping eyebrows suggest astonishment, but its burning cheeks and pinched lips appear at once abashed and alarmed, flustered and fearful. This mix makes for a lively and colorful expression, and interpretations of it are many.
Reacting to LeBron James’s move to the Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018, fellow NBA player Trae Young tweeted a 😳 flushed with a kind of dismaying incredulity, for one example.
A week later, for another example, celebrity and model Kylie Jenner Instagrammed two 😳 Flushed Face’s and a 🙂 Slightly Smiling Face when she revealed she removed her cosmetic lip fillers. Jenner’s 😳 is flushed with a vulnerable but knowing Can you believe it?! Do you like it?!
As Young and Jenner demonstrate, 😳 Flushed Face is emotionally versatile, so let’s have a closer look at its full résumé.
True to its name, 😳 Flushed Face expresses various degrees of embarrassment or shame, often humorous or self-deprecating in tone.
Other strong emotions, including more positive feelings like affection, attraction, and admiration, can color a person’s cheeks pink, thus calling for 😳 Flushed Face.
Bashfulness, shyness, and coyness are very much in the expressive domain of 😳 Flushed Face.
Thanks to its wide eyes, 😳 Flushed Face also conveys feelings of awe and disbelief, variously tinged with fear and wonder.
The force of 😳 Flushed Face can also be more subtle in tone, as if issuing a nervous or excited Eep…
…and an awkward or playful Oops!
Whether you want to indicate something is mortifying or phenomenal, the cherry-hued chops of 😳 Flushed Face has just the expressive chops, as it were. Be mindful, however, that this range opens a lot of room for interpretation—and misinterpretation.
At smaller sizes, also take care not to confuse 😳 Flushed Face with other emojis featuring prominently raised eyebrows, such as 😲 Astonished Face and 😯 Hushed Face, though their applied meanings can overlap.