If the goal of Facebook Reactions was complexity, then Facebook has succeeded in spades. Certainly they deserve a “Like.” Or is it a “Love?”
Reactions, which finally rolled out globally on Wednesday, are Facebook’s response to a growing desire for more choices than just “Likes” (and comments) in Facebook responses.
On the face of it, I’m pleased with my new options. I can still Like things, but now I can “Love” them, laugh at them with “Haha,” show real surprise with “Wow,” get weepy with “Sad” or even get “Angry.”
These are basic human emotions that have a smartly universal flavor. However, if Facebook’s old lack of choice reduced human emotion to a child-like happiness (or nothing), Reactions raises them to the level of complex teenage angst.
Buried beneath each seemingly simplistic choice is a wide range of nuanced feels. Do you “Love” something or are you sending “Love” somebody’s way? Laughing at something could be seen as truly getting the Facebook joke or, at its worst, joining in on a cruel joke at someone else’s expense. Similarly, “Wow” might be reserved for true surprise, but it could also just as easily mean “I can’t believe you feel that way.” As for “Sad” and “Anger,” those are minefield reactions that are best used sparingly.
Even though many people I know “Liked” sad events like deaths and illnesses and then explained themselves in comments, I don’t think Reactions will cure us of this habit. And with six emotion options, we will arguably have a lot more explaining to do.
Choose a feels
Mark Zuckerberg reported Wednesday morning that “Love” is the most commonly used new reaction. What he didn’t say, though, is if it has outstripped “Like.” My guess is it hasn’t.
Facebook Reactions confronts users with the tyranny of choice. Ask anyone and they will tell you they want more options, that is until they are faced with all of them and have to choose.
When someone asks you how you’re feeling, you might quickly answer “fine” or “OK,” without offering much color. Facebook Reactions, though, is encouraging a deeper share. Putting a pin on such radioactive emotions is tough for some people and fraught with difficulties for others. Choose the wrong Reaction on an emotional post and you could get some blowback.
I’m guessing that those who hover their finger (or mouse) over the six choices will wave their digit back and forth a half dozen or more times before settling back on the safest choice: “Like.” Being able to mix the Reactions might help. Don’t we often have a duality of emotions? We’re shocked and angry or surprised and glad. We laugh nervously. We often love things that are bad for us or just plain wrong (like lox on a cinnamon raisin bagel or the Kardashians). Selecting two or even three of those Facebook Reactions could help use convey our true feelings.
Not everyone will feel this way.
The right choice
As a universal service, Facebook serves over a billion people cutting across every demographic imaginable. Young people reared on text emoji will, if they stop using Snapchat for five minutes, see Reactions as another, obvious, extension of their mobile communication lives. They won’t hesitate the way more mature Facebook users will. Those people are just getting the hang of emoji and, as adults, are much more circumspect about sharing their emotions, even with friends and family.
Regardless of age or maturity, many will soon realize that these six Reaction options are not enough. Facebook may never offer a dislike button, but it has, with Anger, offered the next best thing. That will soon become one of the more over-used Facebook Reactions (you can see who, exactly, chose each Reaction for your post). If Twitter had an “Anger” option, it would quickly replace “Hate Likes.” Ultimately, Facebook will want to add a more nuanced “negative” response. That could be “Annoyance” or, my personal favorite “Enough Already.”
I’m not saying I dislike Facebook Reactions (I couldn’t do so on Facebook, anyway). I’m not saying I love them either. Saying they’re a “Wow,” seems like overkill. They’re definitely not “Haha” funny and I’m not at all “Sad” about them, am I? As for being angry, well, any change to one of my favorite social media platforms engenders a bit of annoyance, but “Anger?” No, I’m not angry — why do you ask?
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