It’s long been established that although Facebook’s ‘like’ button is by far their most identifiable symbol, it isn’t always the most appropriate way to respond to someone’s post on the platform. Sure, when it’s good news like “I got a new goldfish!” it’s absolutely acceptable to click ‘like’ to indicate that, yes, that’s great I’m glad that this wonderful event has happened in your life. But when they’ve posted “My goldfish died” clicking ‘like’ feels less like “oh dear, let me non-verbally console you rather than pointlessly add to the 183 comments containing odes to the sheen of Sharky’s scales” and more like “Good, I’m glad Sharky died; that’s one less goldfish for me to kill myself.”
Thankfully, Facebook are finally giving its users more ways to non-verbally express themselves by extending the ‘like’ button and they’ve announced in a Bloomberg report that the feature will be rolling out worldwide over the next few weeks. Now, when you want to respond to someone’s post, holding down the ‘like’ button on mobile and hovering over it on desktop will reveal five more options alongside the traditional thumbs up in the form of animated faces: ‘Love’, ‘Haha’, ‘Happy’, ‘Sad’, and ‘Angry’. There had been a ‘Yay’ option, but this was dropped as it wasn’t seen to be universally understandable.
According to the report the new reactions feature was worked on with sociologists to ensure an appropriate range of human emotion was being provided and it’s already been tested in Spain, Ireland, Chile, the Philippines, Portugal, and Colombia. It wasn’t made clear when exactly the rest of the world would be seeing the update go live, just that it would happen “in the next few weeks.”
Four moving faces, a beating heart and a thumbs up still don’t provide a massive number of ways to express yourself, but this is a definite improvement on just having the ‘like’ button, allowing Facebook users to more quickly and accurately express how they feel about a post, rather than delving into the comment sections to type a full comment or search for the most appropriate GIF. It’s a sign that Facebook are searching for more ways to make social media an empathic experience, especially since they’ve opted for this over the innately negative ‘dislike’ button that’s so often been called for. It’s a positive, if not expansive, change. I’d probably click ‘like’ for it.