Facebook is to trial “reactions” options for users responding to content, proving that merely being able to “like” something was somewhat limiting the human emotional spectrum.
From Friday, Ireland and Spain (assumingly particularly emotive nations?) will be the first to test the new feature. Despite wide reporting that Facebook was working on a “dislike” button in September, it seems company boss Mark Zuckerberg has decided that a binary choice of like and dislike is too specific.
Instead, Engadget reports that “icons” that represent “love, laughter, cheeky smiles [and] shock anger” will be some of those available to users in the trial, which starts this weekend. The hope is that one will no longer be constrained in one’s emotional response on the social network.
It can feel awkward to like a post about somebody’s beloved dog dying – but how else to show appreciation of the cute tribute photo of them as young child and puppy? Zuckerberg acknowledged back in September interviews that this was an issue:
“What [people] really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment.
“We have an idea that we’re going to be ready to test soon, and depending on how that does, we’ll roll it out more broadly.”
Emotional tone online can be a minefield, often lost in translation or misinterpreted, which is why canny internet users have thought of workarounds.
The reaction gif, for instance, is now part of the everyday internet experience, and there are popular website repositories to find the best (think Giphy.com). Twitter recognised just how integral reaction gifs were to many users’ online experience when it introduced support for animated gifs in June 2014.
With its new reactions panel, it seems Facebook is finally (eye roll) catching up to the fact people have a varied, rich internal gamut of emotions. It’s not the most revolutionary advancement, however. Facebook’s new reactions do look a lot like a subset of emoji. They are reminiscent too of the stickers available in Gmail’s Hangouts (in addition to actual supported emoji), and the number of responses one can choose at the end of BuzzFeed articles.
My reaction to Facebook’s reactions? Underwhelmed. But I don’t think that’s an option.
This article was written by Hannah Jane Parkinson, for theguardian.com on Thursday 8th October 2015 14.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010