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Reality show sparks fiery debate: Does a thumbs-up emoji mean ‘f*** you?

Though not everybody The Independent reached out to—including reality kingpin Spencer Pratt—agrees

Rachel Brodsky
Los Angeles
Thursday 19 November 2020 19:58 GMT
Salt Lake City housewives argue that thumbs up emoji means f**k you

As anyone who has lived through multiple eras of internet slang can attest, methods of text communication are constantly evolving. 

Eight or so years ago, sending poop emojis just because we could was considered hysterical, peach emojis were code for backsides, and eggplants—well, you get the gist. 

(And, according to Gen Z, there's an entirely new set of acceptable emoji code—for example, the laugh-cry emoji is out of vogue and the loudly crying emoji has taken its place.)

Which brings us to our latest discussion: On last night's second episode of Bravo’s The Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City, star Lisa Barlow took offense to co-star Heather Gay sending her a single thumbs-up response to a question about attending a party. Barlow, apparently, interpreted the response as an insulting expletive. 

And now, thanks to The Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City, a new emoji argument has sent Twitter into a frenzy: Is a thumbs-up emoji actually code for "f—k you"?

Read More: Sorry millennials, but you're already out of touch. This is how Gen-Zers use emojis 

For her part, Gay claimed that her thumbs-up was not actually meant as a "f—k you." That said, “Two thumbs-up is the f–k you and that’s universal text code.”

But when a producer pulled Gay aside to ask if the text was meant as a “f–k you” to Barlow, she replied, “Absolutely.”

The entire exchange left viewers so perplexed as to what a thumbs-up emoji actually means, they took to Twitter to weigh in.

"I admire the bravery in calling out a thumbs up emoji as a f**k you on national television," tweeted author Michael Arceneaux.

“I’ve literally never sent a ‘thumbs up’ emoji as a “f**k you” but I can start,” tweeted another viewer. 

Read More: Why I’m ditching the guilt and leaning into my obsession with The Real Housewives

“I've never heard of this before,” admitted New Yorker pop culture writer Naomi Fry to The Independent. “And I have no idea what they're talking about. Watching this snippet [of RHOSLC], the whole thing came as a complete surprise to me. Maybe I'm behind the times!”

Likewise, Olivia Crandall, who recaps RHOSLC for Vulture, had never heard of this particular kind of insult. “I also think there's a difference between sending a single emoji and using the little response option to ‘thumbs-up’ a text from someone,” she said. 

While no one The Independent spoke to had ever heard of thumbs-up emojis translating to “f**k you,” they also didn’t exactly see it catching on either. “I don't think there will be lasting ramifications,” said Crandall. “What people really need to talk about is the use of ellipses. I'd rather get 20 passive-aggressive thumb texts than a single ‘…’.”

Finally, The Independent checked in with perhaps one of the best-known reality TV stars of the 21st century, The Hills’ Spencer Pratt, who said simply, "IRL nobody sends me thumbs-up. Except my mom." 

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