When someone shares difficult news with you, your empathetic, human reaction is usually to express concern and caring. Hearing about a sick family member doesn’t typically prompt an awkward silence followed by a reticent thumbs up.
If you use Facebook (Despite your inability to see the links I share to these posts, I do use Facebook), you will no doubt have noticed a recent change to the platform. After years of the singularity known as the “like button,” you now have an array of options from which to choose when responding to a post. Like, love, haha, wow, sad, and angry lend versatility to what has always been an emotionally diverse experience.
The evolution is a natural one. Facebook functions like a diary for many people — a catalogue of (sometimes important) life events. Hearing different news causes us to respond differently, so why should our reaction options be binary?
The social media company did a solid job boiling down the selection of icons. These six emotions offer range and specificity. Not to mention, they come with built-in explanatory labels, unlike a certain ephemeral picture messaging app.
Plus, the functionality is great. On the desktop browser, you can hover over the “like” to expand your options. On the mobile platform an extended tap reveals your choices. Previous adjustments to the newsfeed have caused users to gripe simply because everything looked so different. By keeping the “like” icon prominent on each post, Facebook offers a familiar roadmap during this time of change.
Of course there are those who criticize anything Facebook does. Dissenters lamented the lack of a “dislike” option. But, a system that uses only “like” and “dislike” buttons hardly differs from the previous system. A “dislike” button would give users an option beyond just ignoring a disagreeable post. However, I would argue that if you are genuinely put out by someone else’s content, you should block it from your feed or message the person directly. “Disliking” something wouldn’t be any less passive aggressive than ignoring it altogether.
Others are understandably worried about the new reaction options “juking the stats.” Many of us treat “likes” as a currency that allows us to judge our self-worth (I’m not saying it’s healthy). While notifications now distinguish between reactions, by visiting the actual post you can see the total number of responses you’ve received across the board. This makes checking in on your current posts more narcissistic, but it doesn’t distort the all-important stats.
The real implication here is that Facebook now has another tool with which it can adjust its algorithm. Emotional responses combined with the type of posts you click on or look at are sure to refine News Feed content. Reactions will be given extra significance, meaning if you go through the trouble of selecting an emotional response, Facebook will likely show you more posts in that vein.
The new buttons are a win for both users and the company. We finally have an appropriate way to respond to the passing of a friend’s childhood dog, and Facebook has a way to collect more data without asking us to sign something.