If you ever wanted a “dislike” button on Facebook, your wish has finally come true. Well sort of. The addition of cute “reactions” emoji now allows users to weigh in on posts with a little more emotional precision. You can still like something, but now you can also choose a “love” icon, a “laughing” icon, a “surprised” icon, a “sad” icon and even an “angry” icon.
Evidently, Facebook consulted behavioral psychologists when they began the process of choosing these emoji, and the experts recommended at least a few dozen icons to accurately reflect the spectrum of human emotions. Of course, as soon as they heard this, Facebook management took a break from counting their cartoonishly-marked bags of money and put the old kibosh on the idea, insisting instead on a much more efficient number of reactions. Then they set the hype machine for “overload” and turned their attention back to their stock price.
Why am I being so hard on something that seems like a good idea? Two reasons: First, an angry face isn’t the same as a “dislike” button. Let’s say a friend of yours shares a video news story about a controversial political rally taking place near her home (which upsets her), and you give her post the old “angry” face. Are you angry that someone is choosing to hold a rally near your friend’s home? Are you voicing your displeasure toward the controversial political party? Are you scolding your friend for being so close minded? Are you reviewing the quality of the news report itself?
While saying you dislike a post is pretty black and white, saying that it makes you angry is different – and a lot more complicated. This will make the data retrieved from these emoji much more challenging to interpret. (Oh yeah, you knew that Facebook was just doing this so they would have more data to sell us, right?)
My second reason for being lukewarm on Facebook reactions has to do with our work here at Anchor and Code Roadies: as of right now these reactions are all re and no action. Facebook is still treating any interaction with a post or ad the same way. That’s right – whether you love a post or say it makes you angry, Facebook’s mighty algorithm is treating it exactly the same. Supposedly, this is so Facebook can gradually get a handle on how reactions are being used before they decide how to make the data available to their partners (re: advertisers). But it sort of just comes off as a cash grab, more smoke and mirrors designed to convince us that the folks in Menlo Park are once more at the forefront of innovation.
In order for me to give Facebook reactions an honest reaction of my own, I would need to create an entirely new emoji – one that is distinctly skeptical, but at the same time optimistic. After all, I would love for the data from these inputs to one day help me better choose target audiences for my clients – as well as the messages they would most like to see. But for now, I’ll have to be satisfied with digitally scowling at the endless barrage of recipe videos and inspirational gobbledygook that routinely overflows my news feed.