Gen Z and millennial drivers are rewriting the rules of road rage


March 15, 2023 | 18:24

Gabrielle Deleon may only be 4-foot-6 — yet the 28-year-old social media manager can be an absolute lion in rush hour traffic.

But she doesn’t show her road rage with her middle finger or by honking her horn.

In recent months, she has expressed her anger behind the wheel with a thumbs down.

“It’s much more impactful than giving the middle finger because it’s such a big sign of disapproval,” she told The Post. “It just hits differently.”

While the thumbs-up emoji was recently placed on the chopping block by younger members of the workforce for its “rude” and “hostile” undertones, Gen Z and young millennials are going all in on its opposite.

Deleon said her gesture of disapproval has caused reckless and distracted drivers to change their dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

Twenty- and 30-somethings insist that a flash of the face-down digit is a more “damaging” form of on-road retaliation than flipping the bird. On TikTok, the hashtag #ThumbsDown has more than 16 million views.

“The second you personally receive a ‘thumbs down,’ it’s like they just hit your personal ‘dislike’ button. It can be triggering,” Brenna Sharp, 31, told The Post.

Sharp, a zipline instructor from Hawaii, switched to giving the finger to give a thumbs down in late 2022 in an effort to set a better example for his 3-year-old daughter. She also believes that it is more effective with the person who has offended her.

Brenna Sharp says sticking your head out the window and giving other drivers a thumbs down is the new move.

It’s “a wake up call,” she said. “Like, ‘Oh my god, I must have made a mistake there. They’re really disappointed (in me).'”

It certainly had an effect on TikToker Paige Brickl, 26.

She told her followers that she still worries about the time she received a hand reprimand for speeding on a moose-infested road during a trip to Colorado.

“I think about (getting the thumbs down) every single day,” she lamented. “Turning people off when you’re driving is dead. Give them a thumbs down, they’ll never forget you.”

Joe Navarro, a nonverbal communication and body language expert, told The Post that the seemingly benign gesture can have a painful impact on a person because of mental shortcuts in the brain that cause people to experience immediate emotional responses to situations.

“The brain thinks in heuristics,” Navarro said of the mental alleys. “And when it sees something that dramatically changes the shape of the hand so that only one or two digits stick out… it makes you feel bad.”

He added that giving a thumbs down instead of sticking up the phallic middle finger can more clearly indicate to the recipient that they did something wrong without being rude.

A body language expert told The Post that making a gesture that changes the natural shape of the hand can be perceived as negative feedback.
Getty Images

Navarro also noted that because the “thumbs-down” button has become the universal emblem of censure on popular platforms such as YouTube, TikTok (the symbol is available to users in the comments section of a post) and texting apps, you get an in- person thumbs down can make some drivers feel rejected by the real world.

“We are in an age where we need symbols to represent what we consider ‘good’ and ‘bad,'” Navarro said.

Deleon, who first started flashing the thumbs-down to other drivers at the start of the year, said she’s already seeing surprising results. She recently used the gesture after her Acura sedan was nearly sideswiped by a distracted driver who was talking on the phone.

“(The guy) looked at me and was in shock,” she said with a laugh, noting the added satisfaction of yelling at the driver without having to get too antagonistic.

“A few seconds later I looked into his car and he put his phone down.”

Load more…
Copy the URL to share

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: