The Broken-Chain Emoji Is So Hot Right Now

At their essence, there are three uses for emoji: expressing care to people who have long been in your life, flirting with new ones, and making jokes. Rarely does a little character come along that covers all three bases, but we have been blessed with a powerful new pictogram — the broken link.

The potential to describe breakups, firings, and the end of friendships is obvious. But there are cheekier uses just below the surface. It could mean broken plans, or a person broken from a hard week at work. Conversely, it could mean you’re free from laboring all day and ready to go out. One colleague — no offense to our Hibernian readers — suggested it could be an Irish good-bye if combined with an Irish flag or a potato. Another colleague suggested it could be less of a message and more of a way to evoke a feeling; Nicole Kidman getting divorced from Tom Cruise is a strong example of being “broken-link coded.” If you see it coming from me, I may be referring to Christine McVie death-staring Lindsey Buckingham during Fleetwood Mac’s infamous reunion rendition of “The Chain.”

Forecasting the broken-chain trend, Jennifer Daniel wrote today that it is “ubiquitous and contains multitudes.” Daniel is the chair of the emoji subcommittee at Unicode, the nonprofit that decides how languages and symbols are displayed on the web and across devices. The broken-chain emoji was technically unveiled late last year and is only now, Daniel said, starting to get some traction as it is adopted across platforms and in iOS 17.4 and later. As for her call that this is one of the Good Emoji, Daniel says she never tries to reinvent the wheel. “I think that my approach to writing these blogs is less about predicting the future and looking about how we already communicate,” she says. “It’s not really inventing anything new here, people have seen a broken chain before. It’s used in literature and poetry. It’s contemporary. It’s slang.”

Time will tell if the broken link becomes a playful classic, like the passive-aggressive salute or the person-with-a-cane emoji when you pretend you did not see a meeting invite from your boss. As we enter high summer, now may be the time to break the chain.

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