What do the red flags flooding social media mean?
You may have been seeing red flags all over your social media feeds lately, but typically they don’t mean a literal warning of impending danger.
Red flags emojis are officially known as triangular flags by Unicode, the non-profit that standardizes text, punctuation, and emoji appearance across platforms. Colloquially, it’s most recognizable as the “red flag emoji.”, which depicts a triangular red flag on a pole.
Because triangular red flags are often used to signal danger, this emoji is commonly used to refer to dangerous situations or to warn people of bad ideas or potential problems. At the beach, a red flag means strong currents that can cause significant injury or death. Or in social settings, a “red flag” means any interaction with the person or object in question should end immediately.
On social media, red flags often represent the sense of the term red flag that’s used in the context of dating and relationships to refer to a sign that a person will turn out to be (or is) a bad or problematic partner. So how did the trend start?
According to online forums, the trend began when Black Twitter users shared some of the red flags they encountered in the dating world, like someone being slow to text back but always connected on social media. The red flags next to the sentence indicate that the behaviour described is a huge indicator of a possible future problematic partner. As we said, the tweets cover things like someone who’s always online but is slow to text back; someone saying they’re still friends with their ex, or “going all day without talking to me.”
A tweet calling out the latter is one of the top retweeted tweets of this trend, raking in more than 28,000 retweets so far. That could include phrases like “sorry I fell asleep goodmorning though,” as one tweet reads, seemingly referencing someone who falls off of a texting conversation late at night.
Red flags have been having a huge success on Twitter especially. The platform is bursting with warnings about anything you can think of. The new viral trend has tweeters using the red flag emoji to signal opinions and behaviors that raise, well, red flags. Not a baseball fan? Red flag. Promise you’ll pay someone back later? Red flag. Top your pizza with pineapple? Red flag.
The platform says it’s seen a 455% increase over the last weeks in tweets using the emoji in the US. On one single day Twitter saw 1.5 million red-flag-emoji tweets globally! Thanks to the red flag emoji, Twitter users can just punctuate a tweet with the symbol, or even use a whole row of them to show something is troublesome.
In October 2021, this use of red flags emojis became the focus of a popular meme in which any statement is followed by a series of red flags emojis to jokingly indicate that the statement is a dealbreaker. The trend started with people posting something that’s a bit of “red flag” warning and then adding a number of red flags emojis right after it. So, the meme started out pretty literal.
Soon, the trend evolved into something general. People wrapped sports opinions, pop culture and political issues into their discussions along with the red flags. Some of their posts are jokes. People are now warning each other about pretty everything. People are tweeting opinions on sports, food, movies, music, politics and more that they find to be problematic. Not all the tweets are serious; many of them are jokes.
We have collected some of the best and most hilarious red flags tweets we’ve found (so far), both from ordinary people and from celebs and brands!
One Twitter user tweeted: “My favorite movie is Fight Club.”
Another user tweeted: “I like pinapple on my pizza”.
Celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi tweeted that a red flag for her would be someone saying, “I don’t like Indian food.”
MTV tweeted: “I don’t keep up with pop music”.
E!News tweeted: “We don’t keep up with the Kardashians”.
The Olympics twitter account tweeted: “Sport is overrated”.
Twitter themselves tweeted: “I’m not on Twitter”.
Now, it seems that the red flag meme may be reaching a point of saturation, with some people tweeting about how they’re planning to mute the emoji so as to avoid it on Twitter. Others expressed worry about the kinds of content that people were posting as part of the meme, as some of the contents were pretty personal and referred to very specific and weird personal experiences.
After this trend became viral, brands have started to jump in on it, which often indicates it is becoming too popular and will soon die down. Once politicians jump on the red flag emoji trend, well, it’s over.