Freedom Of The Thumbs Up

thumbs up freedomTwo thumbs up for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A couple of years ago I saw a T-Shirt at Target just before the Fourth of July. It was navy blue with red and white fireworks and the phrase (GET THIS!)



Happiness…” Excuse me!?  What’s wrong with this?

I’m sorry, but no one has the right to happiness. That one’s up to you. The right to define it and obtain it, yes, but not the creamy goodness of happiness itself. If anyone tells you you have the right to happiness, I suggest you run the other way.

Hopefully most Americans and certainly small business people know that the omission of the words “The pursuit of…” alters the meaning of this phrase in a profound way! Leaving out that all-important phrase — the one that means “you can go get it on your own; no one’s stopping you; have at it!” — virtually robs you of your freedom! The tee-shirt designer missed the whole point.

If you don’t pursue happiness, if you think you are entitled to happiness, if you believe happiness is one of your God-given rights, then, I hate to say it, but you don’t deserve the privilege of living in this fine country. What a privilege it is! For some reason God planted me here in America. Wow, did I get lucky! I didn’t have to apply to be here. I didn’t have to escape here, I didn’t have to scrimp and save to get here. I was simply lucky enough to be born here, and I’m grateful.

Independence doesn’t mean you are never dependent on another person, though. No one can do it alone. We need the services and goods that people all over the world provide. We need to share and celebrate ideas and processes that work.

One awesome way we can share ideas and news, pictures and opportunities — and of course funny videos and memes that make us smile — is through the Internet.

The thumbs up sign has become the universal way to share things we like, but it hasn’t always been that way. The gesture’s had different meanings throughout history.

  • Did you know the thumbs up used to mean “Slay the gladiator’ in the Roman coliseum. When Caesar looked to the crowd for consensus on what to do with a wounded gladiator, the crowd decided. The sign for “Spare him” was thumbs down. Kind of goes against you intuition, doesn’t it?
  • Popularized by US pilots in WWII, it meant everything’s ready for take-off. It’s a go.
  • Then it was the Fonz on Happy Days. “Aayyyy” was a phrase that stuck like glue — at least with every cool kid in the 3rd grade.
  • Siskel and Ebert rated current movies using the thumbs-up or thumbs down. Two thumbs up indicated a film you had to go see.
  • Hitchhikers hitch a ride with the thumbs up sign, too.
  • In some part of the world the thumbs up sign means “Up yours,” like giving someone the bird in America.

Now of course, the thumbs up sign is universal for “Like” and it means we approve, endorse, sympathize, enjoy, find humorous, support, or believe something has value. It’s a simple, tiny gesture, sure, but there’s also a certain happy expression of freedom to it every time we click it.

By using the thumbs up online, people of all cultures can cross international boundaries and say “yes!” to each other. I can give the thumbs up to someone in the UK, while with one click someone in Uganda can endorse the things you post. Even in parts of the world where free speech isn’t protected, the thumbs up is a quick and easy way to support things large and small.

So many thumbs up and our micro-endorsements may begin to seem meaningless. But for marketers and those of us who are fascinated with cultural trends, these clicks and likes rivet our attention. They help us know our friends, followers and casual aquaintances better in some ways than we even know our families! We can learn a lot of strange and beautiful things from a flurry of thumbs up/likes.

Freedom allows us the privilege of understanding each other, if we choose that path.  

As you’ve heard so many times before, true freedom is both a right and a privilege. The thumbs up click is the most miniscule of first amendment exercises, but it counts. Heck, yeah!

This week, I celebrate America, my country and all she stands for. With my friends in other countries, I share greetings and wishes for your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. As international shares and likes spread like crazy, we know and understand each other better than ever before, due in no small part to the awesome power of the web.

Two thumbs up to that!

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