Given the gravity of gratitude, and its tie to the educated mind, it ought to be no surprise to anybody that at Utah State where I work, "thanks" is the way EVERY communication, mostly but not limited to email, is terminated. In many cases this is great such as, "Can you generate that report for our meeting? Thanks."
This implies, "Thank you, Steve, for using your talent for databases and technical know-how to keep our business-process running smooth. Oh, and thanks in advance, just so you know that in making this request I appreciate you."
But sometimes the communication is more like this, "The next three days are blackout days, so nobody ask for vacation. Thanks."
This sounds more like, "I own you my tiny little slaves! You want to take a vacation? Ah ha ha ha ha! Oh, and remember, I said thanks, so I'm not a monster. I'm not."
And sometimes takes the form of, "Okay, so did you see the sky? Talk about blue. Yeah I got this shirt for $3. Hey, did you see that [sports event] last night? Great huh? Alright well, Thanks..." Its communication like this that makes the 'What the... !?!?' Alarm go off in my head. Thanks for what? Listening to you ramble? Thanks for pretending to agree with your opinions on sports, weather and politics? Thanks for our association? All nice things, but I think you really just said 'thanks' because after saying a high volume of stuff that has no value, you used the holy word of gratitude as a substitute for an awkward conversation ending, similar to a 6-year-old ending a letter with 'sincerely'. This use of the word 'thanks' is the verbal equivalent of using 'darn' for 'damn'. You used a real word, but only to replace your frustrated emotional confusion.
Two more examples:
"The USU bus will not be running during the summer as the buses are supported by student fees, and its summer time. Thanks." Thanks for understanding? Thanks for missing that doctor's appointment that you were going to use the bus to get to?
And the final one:
As my roommate was walking a girl out of our apartment the other night she turned to him and said, "I love you..."
His response, "Thanks."
Thanks!!!??? Thanks!? "I love you" - "Thanks." And now you see how the terrible over-use of insincere gratitude has come full circle to where "Thanks" equals "I don't love you, in fact if anything, I find you slightly pathetic." In fairness to my roommate I don't think that was his intent to communicate that exactly, but WOW.
Behind every word that comes out of our mouths there are so many unheard thoughts, unseen hurts, triumphs, experiences, wisdom, or perhaps the spewing forth of a life of carelessly expressing whatever pops into one's head. But I wonder if, in our speech, we let certain things stay meaningful? I wonder if sometimes we are too afraid to say what is really on our mind, and in our fear we hide behind the golden badge of gratitude. But if so, I wonder if the blanket of warmth we could give someone else loses its threads when we too often use it as a security blanket?
From my new favorite web comic, a scene that reflects the opposite of what I'm writing about in a truly magnificent way. If you mouse over the images in this comic, there is always something more...