October 8, 2015: social media giant Facebook rolled out ‘Reactions’: a more expressive alternative to their famous ‘Like’ button. They allow a user to convey a range of emotions such as Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad, and Angry. Simply press and hold the Like button OR hover over it for the selection to appear. The new feature is currently being tested in Spain and Ireland ONLY. Updates of when it will be launched to the general public are still unknown.
Reactions seem to be the logical extension of cute Facebook stickers that were made available for comments and photos. Instead of typing in a text comment for instance, you can quickly and easily express what you were thinking through fun character stickers. Now, you can also do the same with Reactions.
There seems to be two main responses to this news: the first is that most are excited at the prospect of being able to show how they support particular Facebook posts. Instead of ‘Liking’ your friend’s breakup status for example, you can respond with Angry or Sad, depending on what you believe is appropriate.
Not everyone is happy with this feature though. Some folks think responding with stickers or emojis can feel somewhat impersonal.
To some extent, they may be correct. Even with six additional ‘Like’ button alternatives, it’s still not enough to truly express what you could be feeling or thinking. As with the breakup example, say you clicked on ‘Sad’, that may not necessarily mean that you’re distressed for your friend – it could mean something else entirely.
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced that ‘new social buttons’ will be released this year, there has been plenty of speculation that it will be a ‘Dislike’ button. Although he acknowledged the limitations of Likes when it comes to sad or challenging moments of life, it didn’t necessarily mean that he was open to that idea.
Zuckerberg and his team believe a Dislike button will only promote negativity and curb freedom of expression. Yes, there may be times when you want such a feature to show your disapproval over something (like a spammy post) – but Facebook wants to encourage more positive means of doing so. Besides, there’s always the Report button.
Could you imagine IF the social media platform really did employ such an idea? How would you feel seeing someone ‘Dislike’ your post, photo, or status?
Whether we like it or not, we can’t deny that there are now two worlds: our on- and offline lives. Technology has made it possible for us to meet and become friends with people oceans away. It has also paved the way for businesses to expand into uncharted territory. With small and big brands all vying for attention on social media, Facebook’s Reaction buttons could be a game-changer.
Although this new feature will affect us all, they will have a more significant impact for businesses. Why? Businesses use several digital marketing strategies that involve measuring social media metrics. Trying to gauge Likes, Shares, and Impressions alone can be confusing, add to that six new buttons and it could spell chaos.
Another point that we should consider is how this will all affect the way we share information. If someone expresses ‘Angry’ on one of your posts for instance, would that be a big deal? Should you ask the person? With more options to convey what we feel, will that make some people think twice before uploading a picture or changing their status? In the beginning, it could be very overwhelming indeed.
Last, Facebook’s Reaction buttons means we are slowly making ourselves vulnerable in social media. In a study done by the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, researchers were able to find out a LOT about respondents’ psychological make-up based on their digital footprint. Co-lead author Dr. Michal Kosinski in an interview with Social Media Today revealed that ‘they could tell if someone’s parents divorced years ago based on factors such as Facebook posts they Liked’.
This poses privacy issues for many social media users, like parents. It won’t be so surprising though, that brands or businesses would use this type of information for their marketing efforts. Target was under fire in 2012 for such a strategy. Apparently, their customer database was so elaborate that they were able to predict if a woman was pregnant – long before her loved ones did. This led to many females feeling uncomfortable about receiving related coupons in the mail.
In the future, money will no longer be the most valuable form of currency – it will be information.
Facebook’s Reaction buttons could be the beginning of something great, or it could be just another flop. At the end of the day, what matters is how we discern what we’re comfortable sharing with the world. Social media’s capability to connect people with one another is like the moon: there’s a dark and light side to it. Neither is bad, but both are powerful.
How about YOU, how would you rate Facebook’s new feature?