It is hard to imagine it nowadays, in our fast moving society of social media and dogs on skateboards, but up until the 1990s people didn’t have feelings. In the eighties, only celebrities had emotions on things and those emotions were usually associated with cocaine or Margaret Thatcher. In the sweltering trip-hop summer of 1994 this changed. One intrepid journalist by the name of Helene Garblog dared to ask a simple follow-up question about a new flavour of Fanta to a man no more famous than you or I, and it changed the world. She asked “…and how do you feel about that?”. It may have seemed like nothing at the time, and the man’s answer may have been very racist, but this answer opened a global flood-gate that released a foaming torrent of, often non-racist, emotion.
Over the next two years, science categorised emotions into five categories: ‘angry’, ‘sad’, ‘drunk’, ‘looking’ and ‘pretty chilled’. In 1997 the categories ‘disappointed at Bill Clinton’ and ‘frustrated’ were added and there have been no new emotions recorded since then.
Now ‘feels’ are as important a part of day to day life as eating, going wees, or taking your dog for a skateboard. It is hard to conceive of a world in which you aren’t asked how you feel about the weather, the AMC show Mad Men, or your sister. Instead of a PIN number, some banks are simply asking how you feel about money to identify their customers. Rugby players. once the bastions of not feeling anything, are now asked how they feel about the French before, after and during any given game of rugby.
The feels are here to stay, and all because of one reporter’s inability to leave a racist man alone.