I have an app that helps me relax which I have been using for about a year. I do ten minutes a day of meditation; it helps me to wind down. And I need it because I tend to spend the same amount of time again searching for reading glasses so I can see the instructions to run it and a further ten finding a place where I can get adequate wifi.
I share this insight into my life because I have good news: I have just passed 1000 minutes of meditation time! It’s just popped up on my phone. It is quite an achievement but I have to say that I am a little disappointed. No champagne corks, no balloons, no messages saying, ‘Fab!’ or ‘WOW!!’ or ‘You’re the Best’. It’s a bit of an anti-climax. In these days of fancy virtual rewards, I’d expected more of a fuss.
Perhaps, word has got round about my feat to the thousands of followers I have on my various platforms. We know everything else about each other through constant alerts and notifications. Surely, there must be a way for what I have done to pop up on their screens too? A bit of awareness from my fans with a little ego-massaging, would make up for the lack of the fake party atmosphere.
I check my emails, texts, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram – there is nothing. The let-down continues when I open my personal gateway to the world of big business: my LinkedIn account. Still I draw a blank. I’m particularly surprised about LinkedIn as it constantly flashes up ways to encourage you to ‘stay connected’. And my bruised ego is in need of connection.
I joined LinkedIn primarily to boost my chances of selling more books. Not all of my business associates are obvious hook-ups for an author: a shift lead at Pizza Hut; an insurance broker; a Freelance Innovation Consultant (no, I don’t know either); a packaging something; a gym instructor; several engineers; a volunteer in a nursing home. The list goes on. A varied and eclectic group, held together across the miles by a common thread: they are all absolutely no help in selling my books.
But that shouldn’t stop them trying to stay in touch and one way to do that is to recognise each other’s achievements.
Just as I did with Bob Whiting (Junior Marketing Manager from Missouri). I’m sure you all know him. I went to a lot of effort to wish him well on the anniversary of him spending 2 years at Boultings Paint Strippers Inc. Might not sound much but it takes a lot to read the notifications and even more to act on them. Those bespoke congratulatory messages don’t click on themselves.
There’s a matter of principle here – I’m hurt at the lack of digital caressing I have received and Bob becomes the outlet to air my frustration. I opt for a quick and easy method to let him know how I feel. I will send him an Emoji.
I google ‘Emoji’ and am presented with a huge array of yellow faces.
I scan down for something which sums up my feelings about Bob’s lack of care and attention, ideally something that says: ‘I’m fed up with you, Bob Whiting, Marketing manager from Missouri, for your lack of care and attention’. There are a lot to choose from and I’m not entirely clear what they all mean.
I stare at one with an eye-brow raised and a red blob stuck to its face. What is that blob? I find my glasses where I left them – on the bamboo table, next to the incense sticks in the meditation room down by the lake (How to Meditate, lesson 13 – Visualisation). As I thought, it is a red blob but I see, now, that it is a heart-shaped red blob. Why, then, does the face have one eye-brow raised? The heart is for love, obviously, but I’m flummoxed by the eyebrow. There is subtlety here that I cannot appreciate. What are the two things together supposed to mean? Perhaps, a condition attached of some sort. If not a condition, just further information? I love you but, hang on, Baby: have you seen what I can do with my eyebrow? Or possibly, it is just functional – I’m in love with you but also just a little constipated. Would Bob from Missouri get the gist of my true sentiments with this one? I think not.
There are others to choose from. A set where the mouths forms, what look like, number 3s catches my eye. They are all slightly different, though.
1. Emoji 1 with number 3 mouth has open, surprised looking eyes
2. Emoji 2 with number 3 mouth has closed eyes and eyebrows
3. Emoji 3 with number 3 mouth has closed eyes, eyebrows and rosy cheeks.
They could be the kind of thing I need but which one do I choose? How do I differentiate? I decide it needs further investigation. I seek out a mirror to try the faces in real life. How should I look if Bob from Missouri was with me right now? Would one of these fit?
I come up with an immediate problem by way of the tricky challenge of the number 3 mouth. The fingers moulding and stretching my mouth, then rotating it 90 degrees is too much of a distraction and surely would send out too many other conflicting signals. So I try to put the mouth to one side (answers on a postcard for that Emoji design) and concentrate on dealing with the lack of eyebrows in Emoji 1 by covering mine with my hands. It’s not right. Whatever message I’m trying to convey to Bob, it is certainly not the ‘embarrassed seal’ look.
I’m back in my comfort zone with hands away and eyebrows intact for Emoji 2. The huge forehead won’t be a problem but seeing what I look like with my eyes closed will be. I try taking a picture with the eyes shut but miss... several times. Hopeless.
With eyes open, I see that Emoji 3 has become a contender because my cheeks are rosy with all the effort thus far, but I still have the issue with the closed eyes. Perhaps I can find an Emoji which combines the traits of Emoji 3 – rosy cheeks, eyebrows, number 3 mouth (TBA at a later date) but has open eyes? I scroll down. No luck.
It’s then that I notice Emoji 3 has a black ring round it – is that significant? Is that the finishing touch I need to tell Bob from Missouri how I feel? I hunt around at the bottom of the wardrobe for my wife’s black scarf and tie that around my head. The rosy cheeks are still in play after that effort but, somehow – and I can’t quite pinpoint why – even with eyes open and eyebrows on display, it does not have the effect I’m after.
I’m just beginning to think that I’m on the wrong track with using Emojis when I spot a load more on the next page. There’s one with a cowboy hat on – Bob’s American and as stereotypical as they come, judging by his profile, so he will, no doubt, like that. Liking it, though, is not the impact that I want at all. He needs to feel guilty. There’s another with what looks like a medical mask, several with indeterminate stuff coming out of their mouths, one with a monocle (I’m English so, on another day, when I’m less cross with Bob from Missouri, we could exchange the cowboy hat and monocle Emojis to show the strength of the special relationship) and then the Emojis, inexplicably, turn into cats.
I notice an extraordinary one which looks like his nose is being stretched round and placed in his ear. Why? What can that possibly indicate? I click on it and it’s then I realise that it, all of them, in fact, have descriptions. I wish I had known that earlier. There’s a search function, too. Now I’m getting somewhere.
I type in my search criteria – ‘Bob from Missouri has let me down’. Nothing. I try variations on that theme: Bob from Kansas, Bob from Kentucky... they all draw a blank. A quick meditation (on track towards 2000 minutes now – can’t wait!) helps me focus on my core feelings. And what sticks out is disappointment.
I type the word in and am met with immediate success. There’s actually an Emoji called, ‘Disappointed’. That looks very promising. I just need to check it out in the mirror. I summon up my feelings from hours of watching Colchester United and mould my features into a disappointed face. I look just like the Emoji (a tad less yellow). There’s a definition - A yellow face with a frown and closed, downcast eyes, as if aching with sorrow or pain. May convey a variety of unhappy emotions, including… but then there are more Emojis listed which, presumably, are clarifications or add-ons to the ‘Disappointed Emoji’. Goodness, I had no idea there would be so many layers of emotion in a simple cartoon drawing.
The first on the list (called ‘A sad but relieved face’) confuses me. I’m not sure I have ever felt sad but relieved at the same time. I glance at the mirror and realise I don’t know what to do so I seek clarification from the definition - A yellow face with small, open eyes, a slight frown, and furrowed eyebrows, from which a single bead of sweat drips, as if from concern or… Yes, I’m sure I’ve done that face – see (post) constipation above – but I struggle to replicate it now. In any case, there is more.
It goes on to another sub-set called ‘Confused face’ – A yellow face with open eyes and a skewed frown, as if scrunching its cheeks or chewing its lips. A look of feeling unsure. I’m back on solid ground here. I was right – with little or no effort, my reflection looks exactly like this Emoji but no longer looks disappointed. Is it possible to look disappointed and confused at the same time? Maybe I do.
These additions to the original ‘Disappointed Face’ go on for some time. I study them all and, as I look at the explanations, I find myself naturally mimicking the Emoji face each time: Worried Face; Slightly Frowning Face; Frowning Face (very similar to Slightly Frowning face but a bit frownier); Pensive Face; Downcast Face with Sweat; Anxious Face with Sweat; Frowning Face with Open Mouth; Frowning Face with Closed Mouth; Frowning Pensive Worried Anxious, Constipated Face; Frowning Pensive Worried Anxious Constipated Face with a side order of fries. (Spot the two that are made up). It seems endless.
By now, my face is starting to rebel. The next 2 or 3 times I check the mirror, I find that my expression hasn’t changed. It is now fixed firmly in position as the Edvard Munch ‘The Scream’ Face.
I take a few deep breaths and evaluate where I have got to. Not very far is the answer. The ‘Disappointed Face’ would have been a definite contender, but for all the caveats. If I send that Emoji to Bob from Missouri, there is a whole host of conflicting messages within it. As with life, the devil is in the detail and the detail here ranges from ever so slightly pensive through to downright maniacal.
There must be another way. I’m tempted to search LinkedIn for an automatic response I can click to let Bob know that a message would have been nice but, I must admit, I’ve had enough. Bob from Missouri is let off the hook this time and so are the rest of you for not congratulating me. A bit harsh? Possibly.
Maybe the virtual world is not as efficient or as pro-active as we think. Or maybe there just isn’t the time, or the need, to shout out about every win or loss in our lives. Rather magnanimously, I will give myself a small amount of credit for sitting still for over 1000 minutes in the last year, imagining that I am meditating, and leave it at that.
You, and Bob from Missouri, should know that I harbour no real ill-will towards any of you for your lack of care and attention. If I did, it might look a little bit like the Munch Emoji below.