First they came for Louis C.K., then racial slurs, and now… the thumbs-up emoji. No person or thing is safe from being canceled — at least, that is what every media outlet right of center would like us to believe. Over the last 24 hours, news sites whose main purpose is to scare boomers into leaving cities and buying erectile dysfunction medication have all aggregated the same so-called story: that Gen Z thinks the thumbs-up emoji is passive-aggressive and needs to be shipped to Canceled Island to join free speech champions and older women who yell at Starbucks workers.
This entire news cycle stems from a single post on the “Adulting” Reddit forum, where one user posed the question, “Am I not adult enough to be comfortable with the ‘thumbs up’ emoji reaction?” The poster had apparently recently started an “adult job” where their coworkers routinely use 👍 to react to messages. “I think it’s normal for to [sic] ‘thumbs up’ messages, but I still feel like it’s such an unsettling response. Does anyone else feel this way?” they asked.
Some of the younger denizens of r/Adulting did feel this way, with one self-purported 24-year-old replying, “Everyone my age in the office doesn’t do it, but the gen X people always do it. Took me a bit to adjust and get out of my head that it means they’re mad at me.” However, another person commented, “I’m 25 and have worked with others ranging from 21-27 and never heard anyone mention that.” The conversation went on like that, with some anxious people finding the emoji to be impersonal and passive-aggressive, while others think it’s a completely normal way to respond.
But then some of the worst news sites got a hold of it, and now we’re careening into full-fledged generational war territory. The New York Post ran a story with the headline “Gen Z canceled the ‘hostile’ thumbs-up emoji and wants to ban these 9 others.” Those nine others come from a survey conducted by research firm Perspectus Global, which found that people aged 16-29 thought that using emoji like ❤️and 💩makes a person “officially old.” (That survey was single-handedly responsible for another slew of “These emojis make you look old, according to Gen Z” aggregated articles back in 2021.)
Reacting to the revelatory information drawn from the Reddit post, Fox News ran an on-air segment with several of their sharpest minds weighing in on the topic. Former Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany even revealed that some of her top emoji are on the Old Freak Loser Emoji list.
“My top emojis are the thumbs-up, the brown swirl — which I don’t know if that’s pudding… and red heart,” she said. Do with that what you will.
If you are old (28+) and still using 👍, take it from me, someone on the zoomer/millennial cusp: Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s fine. It’s unimaginative, but fine, and much better than this guy: 😀. Just look at him, what’s his fucking deal?