This is my impassioned plea: It is time to abolish the high five. We must retire it now to the realm of gifs and cross our arms should it dare to reemerge in the world of the non-pixelated. The high five has had its moment. And that moment was too long. We have grown up (somewhat) and as somewhat grown ups, let’s dispose of the things that no longer serve us.
The high five never served us.
Rather, we have always been at its mercy.
Imagine: An event of deep awesomeness occurs.
At the moment of this deep awesomeness, some dude (we’ll call him Steve) raises his palm in celebration. If you freeze that moment, Steve looks kind of cool. If his clothes are right. If he has the proper expression of casual exaltation. Maybe.
But a high five requires a sacrifice. It is, at its core, a setup.
Now the second participant (we’ll call him Bob) must react. No matter how impressed he is by the moment of deep awesomeness, Bob never has any hope of surpassing Steve’s coolness. If Bob is one of those brave creatures willing to backflip off a high dive or do some performative, rehearsed response to a high five, he might pull himself up to the same level as Steve. But that is unlikely.
Most Bobs are not that bold.
Steve sucked Bob in with that raised hand, making Bob think he could be a part of Steve’s social tribe, with all the acceptance that confers, but instead Steve is just feeding his own cultivated image with Bob’s inevitably nerdy response.
Because, and I don’t know why people don’t talk about this more, high fives can go quite wrong. There is one correct angle for a high five and you must already be in it when the opposing palm is proffered. You can’t take steps to correct your angle prior to raising your own hand, because that would be weird. Instead, you must twist your body or wrist to try and meet the other palm. This twisting results in a lack of force, making the high five unsatisfying both visually and physically.
However, that’s not as bad as the ultimate humiliation, the woosh-by. In the woosh-by the two hands nearly pass each other, but the pinky sides catch. A woosh-by is always followed by awkward laughter, apologies and the outing of Bob as clumsy. This is not fair to Bob, who likely possesses an average level of coordination. A high five response should be considered an advanced move performed only by advanced movers.
While a failed high five might seem like an opportunity for bonding, due to the laughter that follows, instead it establishes a hierarchy which becomes impossible to break. This is unhealthy for Bob, who now feels terrible about himself, but also for Steve. Steve bought cheap reputation points based not on skill, but on a cheap trick. What happens when he’s expected to step up? Prove he’s worthy of the status he earned?
Steve will fall.
Instead of the antiquated and irritating high five, may I suggest we all upgrade to the fist bump? Accept that the high five was an early version and it’s been improved upon? The fist bump has been around for a while. It shouldn’t frighten you.
Fist bumps are generous. They draw you into the initiator’s world. They leave little room for error, because they work from a multitude of angles.
They can be cool.
They can be cute.
If you’re old, like me, your first reaction might be one of resistance. “You’ll take my high five away when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” I would argue, the longer you insist on high fiving, the colder and deader your hands will become.
Better not to risk it.
The next time someone lifts their palm to you, leave them hanging, my friend. You just might set them free.