I hate that expression, it totally winds me up — because it isn’t really thanks at all. At best it’s an empty platitude; at worst it’s emotional blackmail.
To me, the phrase says one or all of these things:
- This is just what people say (meaningless)
- I’m assuming that you’re going to help me, therefore I’m thanking you now (presumptuous)
- I’m thanking you now so as soon as I get an answer I can forget about this thread (lazy, ungrateful)
- I’m not sure if you’re going to help me, so saying thanks now will encourage you to do so, because I’ve already thanked you (emotional blackmail)
Even worse, I occasionally see this phrase in txt msg speak, written as
thx, and that’s even more of a wind-up — it’s not just presumptuous pseudo-gratitude, it’s lazy and illiterate. Doesn’t inspire me to help.
The proper time to thank someone is after they’ve helped you, because that’s when it actually means something. The fact that you had to be conscious enough to step outside your immediate concern, at a point when you no longer need anyone, in order to show gratitude — that’s what makes it real; that’s when I know you really mean it.