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OPINION | GARY SMITH: Is giving someone a “thumbs up” a passive-aggressive act?

What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned ‘thumbs up?’ by Gary Smith | March 29, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Today I rise in defense of the humble "thumbs up," a gesture so beloved it really shouldn't need defense but apparently does.

Seems that a not-insignificant portion of our population, or at least a portion researchers feel confident is represented by those answering a survey, has opined that using the "thumbs up" emoji means you are officially old (well, I could have told them that!) and that it's use is passive-aggressive.

I have thoughts ... so many thoughts.

For one, there are people who actually research things like emotions elicited by emojis? Seriously? I mean, apparently there is either more money in somewhat random surveys than I would have imagined or researchers are just messing around with stuff until they can get opinions on the next elections terribly wrong.

Also, I get the feeling sometimes that "passive-aggressive" is one of those phrases like "woke," in that people aren't really quite sure what it means, but they feel like it's something really bad that can be used to stir up emotions. Even about things like emojis.

Whatever the case, it seems an actual, honest-to-goodness survey indicated that those who are classified as Gen Z (born between the mid-1990s and 2010s, for anyone keeping score at home) feel like using the "thumbs up" emoji indicates you're old and are acting in a passive-aggressive manner. Yes, I know: I've repeated myself. It's an old people thing. We often have to since you weren't paying attention because you were on your phone. Apparently taking a survey about emojis.

Now I believe there may be more than one thing going on here. I have the sneaking suspicion that some of the emotions generated by use of the "thumbs up" emoji may actually derive from the fact that the only "old people" most Gen Z'ers come in contact with are their parents. And just about anything their parents do, up to and including texting, annoys them.

To which I say, right back at ya. You've been irritating us for years, but the difference is we didn't borrow your car, scratch the paint, leave wrappers all in it and the fuel tank on empty. Just, you know, if we're keeping score here.

Also, we'd be a lot more concerned about your feelings about our texting habits if you weren't reading said texts on phones that are part of our cell phone plan. While watching the streaming services we pay for. And ordering things using our accounts, since we've also paid for the free shipping.

But I'm just venting and/or being a grouchy old guy here. Any minute now I'm going to start yelling at people to stay off my lawn.

Why exactly Gen Z has elected to pick on the "thumbs up" emoji is sort of a mystery to me. It's been around for a while, and I always assumed it was first used by humans to indicate that, thanks to the whole "opposable thumb" deal, we were running the show.

Researchers (again with those guys!) indicate primates do it, as well. Which seems a lot like sucking up to the boss if you ask me. However, since I've never seen "ape" featured on a menu, it appears to be working.

And if showing off to the rest of the animal kingdom isn't enough, apparently there was even a practical military application for the "thumbs up." Because, as humans, everything we do has a practical military application.

It seems in medieval times, English archers were required to make sure their long bows were set up correctly prior to battle. Apparently, the optimal distance between the wooden part of the bow and string was seven inches, roughly the length of the human fist with the thumb extended. I'm not measuring it to prove a point. Also, yes, I know there are actual names for the wooden part of the bow and the string, but, really, you knew what I meant.

Once archers determined their bows were strung correctly, they would show their thumbs to the folks in charge as an indication they'd actually measured and were good to go.

So there you have it. Something you didn't know and now will likely never forget. Also, something you can use to both bore and annoy your Gen Z children, who will be wondering where you hear this stuff.

Because as we all secretly know, annoying your children is one of the benefits of getting older. That and cheaper movie tickets. And I can definitely give a "thumbs up" for that.

Print Headline: Digit-al emotions


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