The thumb

Brrrrrmm.

My phone just vibrated in my pocket. Do I look at it? I don’t want to seem rude to the person currently talking at me about their brother’s redundancy package or their child’s croup but, as engaged as I am in that, the vibration could be important.

Someone might need me. Someone might need the help or insight only my baffled scowl could provide. There’s a chance I can markedly improve someone’s life by responding inanely to an urgent enquiry with a perfectly punctuated sentence containing far too many words, like this one. I’ll have to sneak a look.

Oh. It’s a thumbs up.

And I reckon you think you’ve improved my life by sending it to me. After all, surely I was waiting for your approval about something. Perhaps we arranged a pint next week, or agreed we’d blame someone in ‘Dev Ops’ for breaking the website because it was Friday afternoon, Friday lunchtime liveners are a human right and no-one really knows what ‘Dev Ops’ is anyway. We sorted things out with words and came to a consensus I thought would hold, without needing to prolong our exhilarating back and forth.

But you wanted it to be crystal clear you approved of our negotiations. So you sent me a picture of a thumb. Brilliant.

I wish I was an Afghan. I’d take the constant fear of being exploded and the patronising pats on the head from the international cricket community, simply to live in a culture where the thumbs up gesture is considered the equivalent of the middle finger. I strongly urge you to buddy up with a black-clad, Arabic-speaking man and make some arrangements with him, provided your house is nowhere near mine.

Obviously I’m full of irrational hatreds for things most sane people wouldn’t even notice. For some reason I despise the unnecessary shortening of words, such as ‘uni’ and, curiously, ‘chemo’. Dubious v skeptical holds a special place in my heart. If you say the phrase ‘much of a muchness’ at me there will be consequences.

But this thumbs up epidemic is driving me to the brink. What makes it worse is I don’t really care about the rest of the emoji family, three-footed Norfolk-like halfwits that they are. Yes they’re part of the deadening of discourse, and replacing words with pictures helps reduce the average attention span towards that of a bagged-up goldfish. But when your day job involves using actual words and not pictures of courgettes, increased imbecility equals reduced competition. Everyone else gets thick and I get paid, because I’ve never used a single emoji, because I’m not five.

There’ll be a special place in hell reserved for the ‘rolling around laughing’ cartoon face, normally sent in response to something at best mildly amusing. What will you send when I say something truly hilarious? A cartoon that’s laughed so hard it’s now vomiting? A tiny Budd Dwyer with no point going on now comedy is complete? A courgette?

But even that has nothing on the thumb. I’m not a total fool, I know this is going to result in people sending it to me more to wind me up, japesters that you are, and yet I’m here begging for you to consider alternatives. A simple ‘got it’ or ‘OK’ will do if you really need me to know you’re still as happy as you were one minute before. Or, and I know this is controversial, but just don’t send anything at all and assume that all the actual words we’ve said before are enough without Roger Hargreaves sticking his sodding oar in.

Think about what would happen if you didn’t send that thumb. We’d probably still both turn up for that pint next week at the time agreed, and nobody would be any the wiser that there’s a unused cartoon thumb somewhere out there in the virtual cosmos.

Or is there a new paradigm where nothing is set in stone without the thumb? When I’m sitting there, five pints in, refusing to message you to ask where you are because I remember a time before phones when you’d just wait and drink and allow the rage to grow, like a randy incel – when I eventually ask you why I’m drunk and alone, will you tell me that we never agreed to meet because you never sent the thumb?

In the last week alone I’ve received it seven times from five different people, on the phone and on one of those horrific group communication portals that substitutes for office conversation these days. I get the feeling I’m the only one who mentally kicked a kitten every time I saw it.

So here’s my plea: send it as often you like, to everyone but me. You swear like a trawlerman in the pub but you censor it around your family, so can you set up a similar filter for me? Next time you think to send me a badly drawn digit, picture Grandma’s eyes wide with disappointment as you tell her thanks, but no you don’t want another fucking hot cross bun.

I’ll have to play the one card I have. Friends, please, I’m sick as a dog eating grass here. Lately I’ve been so unlucky, if I fell in a barrel of tits I’d come out sucking my thumb.

Stop bloody reminding me of it can you?

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