After “Zack’s” announcement earlier this year of the upcoming new “like button”, the world was anxiously waiting to see what it would look like. In case you missed it, Facebook rolled-out this month in the US a set of seven emojis called “Facebook reactions” which can be clicked-on to react to a post : like, love, haha, yay, wow, sad and angry. My Reaction to Facebook’s reactions was a “wow” full of cognitive dissonance. On one hand, I can see how the new options can help improve the Facebook algorithm and ultimately, one would hope, provide me with better more relevant content on my feed. On the other hand, I find it dangerous for the evolution of the human mind for Facebook to limit the expression of human emotion to seven reactions. Finally, despite knowing that a lot of research went into selecting these seven buttons, I question whether having such a large array of options, (and many similar options like “like” and “yay”) will actually increase user engagement.
Firstly, from a social standpoint, I wonder whether Facebook introducing the seven reactions is good for society. As humans we are slowly losing the ability to express complex emotions, replacing instead our written language by abbreviations, our emotions by emojis, and even sometimes replacing our spoken words by simple abbreviations, such as saying “LOL” instead of actually laughing out loud. I fear that by introducing the seven reactions, Facebook is promoting laziness of expression and further limiting the way in which people express themselves, especially since “yay” or “wow” are not particularly sophisticated emotions. I understand that Facebook is motivated by the opportunity to improve their algorithm, but from a social standpoint, I am sadden by this promotion of laziness, and the promotion of the slow death of the human language.
However, the advantages of the reactions buttons to Facebook, and hopefully to users are undeniable. Not only Facebook will be able to better understand user’s emotions behind each “like”, but it perhaps benefit from increased user engagement : when the like button felt inappropriate (e.g., a friend’s divorce), users simply wouldn’t engage with a post, whereas now they have other options to engage. Facebook will be able to monetize better quality data by selling more accurate targeting to advertisers, and hopefully provide a better user experience showing “haha” content to people who like to laugh and “angry” content to people who like to vent.
In all, the way I feel about Facebook reactions cannot really be captured by any of the seven emojis. On one hand I feel “sad” about the culture regression this causes to human kind. On the other hand, I feel “yay” about the data advantages and technological and business progress. However, the “human kind” argument aside, I still wonder whether Facebook got it right. I believe there are too many similar reactions (like, love, yay), a confusing reaction (is it a good wow or a bad wow?), and a lack of some key simple reactions like “scared”, “confused” or “annoyed”. Will these seven reactions further help Facebook understand each user better, or will it homogenize all our profiles over time?