Columnist Steve Pokin allowing his editor to snap a picture of him texting. (Photo by Brittany Meiling)

I’m about to give up texting because I just found out while listening to KSMU radio (91.1 FM) that I don’t know what I’m doing.

A woman by the name of Lizzie Post, co-president of Emily Post, a family business specializing in etiquette since 1922, was going over the do’s and don’t’s of texting.

The interview then shifted to a woman named Ellen Hendrikssen, a clinical psychologist. I almost drove off the road when she said the following:

“The meaning of emojis seems to shift under our feet. I know the thumbs-up symbol for older people means just that, means affirmative, but for younger people can be passive aggressive or sarcastic.”


The thumbs-up is my go-to emoji.

It’s my way of saying I’m with you; I support you; now leave me alone.

And yes, I’m old, 68.

Do my work colleagues — my boss, even — think I’m being sarcastic when I’m being as affirming as Mr. Rogers?

Talk about miscommunication. That’s like mistaking resent for re-sent.

Of course, Ms. Post did mention a few things with which I agree.

Such as, it’s poor manners to bombard someone with a dozen or so consecutive texts.

I was part of church group of about 20 people helping an Afghan family locate here in Springfield. A whole lot of texting was involved.

When I get a text my phone makes the sound of a train whistle.

It got to the point here in the newsroom that when that train whistle blew a dozen times in three minutes my colleagues knew something was up with the Afghan family.

It went something like this.

Text: The new swing set looks good in their yard.

Text (train whistle): Like (like emoji)

Text (train whistle): Smiley face (smiley face emoji)

Text (train whistle): Heart (heart emoji)

Text (train whistle): Thumbs up (thumbs up emoji)

Text (train whistle): Who is this?

No, it is not an option for me to mute my phone.

My iPhone is my main source of communication and when on deadline I don’t want to miss that message I’ve been waiting for since 1975 on what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.

More revelations (for me) about texting

Steve Pokin looks for the hammer emoji. (Photo by Brittany Meiling)

Let’s get back to the clinical psychologist quoted in the NPR story.

She cautioned that too many people overreact when they see the dot, dot, dot that appears when someone is typing a text response — and then it stops.

Nothing happens. No message.

Apparently, there are more than a few people who interpret that as meaning the other person suddenly hates you and never wants to see you again or hear from you again because they are so angry over what you just texted regarding, say, composting.

At Thursday morning’s staff meeting I explained my idea for this column.

As I commenced to recount the tale of the etiquette expert on the NPR interview and the thumbs-up emoji, my managing editor Brittany Meiling, age 34, interjected …

“I think I know where this is going.”

And she did. When older people use the thumbs-up emoji it is often interpreted by younger people as … “I understand; got it; I’m done with this conversation.”

But what are my options? To not respond at all? Which actually saves time.

Write a heartfelt response from the depths of my soul in response to a text that in that moment I really don’t care about? Which takes too much time.

Or do I find a new emoji that doesn’t betray me away as an old person who doesn’t know how to text?

Brittany opened my eyes to other texting revelations, including the use of periods.

Ending a text in a period, she says, is passive-aggressive behavior in the eyes of some, especially when they follow words like “OK” or “thanks.”

(While we’re at it, people just use “K” because they’re too busy to type out both letters?)

“The period is perceived as abrupt and kind of dismissive,” according to Brittany. “I’ll admit, if you reply to a message from me with an ‘OK.’ (with a period) I will automatically assume that I said something that annoyed you, or you’re just very ready for this conversation to end.”

Another co-worker, Jeff Kessinger, tells me he once made the mistake of sending a text to his daughter that ended in a period.

“She asked me if I was mad at her,” he says.

Speaking of punctuation, according to Brittany, “Exclamation points soften the tone and signal to the other person that you are embracing the idea.”

This is news to me!!!!

Has texting become Opposite World? You shout to soften the tone? To really soften it should it be in ALL-CAPS?

“That said,” according to Brittany, “there’s also lots of talk online about how women use too many exclamation points and should avoid these to be ‘taken more seriously.’ But that idea is contested, too.”

So what am I to do?

I feel compelled to dump the thumbs-up emoji.

The rubber hit the road this week when Brittany sent an internal message to staff about the thousands of people reading colleague Jackie Rehwald’s story on a plastic surgeon who allegedly choked his deaf Uber driver.

I was about to click the thumbs-up emoji, but I froze.

I needed to respond but I had to find something else and I didn’t want to spend more than 12 seconds finding it.

I chose a hammer. It seemed appropriate and it was also an inside joke with Jackie and colleague Rance Burger from our days at the News-Leader.

Rance came in the next day. I explained why I’d dropped the thumbs-up emoji and, instead, hoisted the hammer.

But it wasn’t a hammer, Rance informed me. It was a razor. He was right; it was a razor.

In conclusion, as a texter, I’m a failure. (sad face)

This is Pokin Around column No. 37.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin