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Facebook Reactions - The Nearest We Will Ever Get to the Dislike Button

Engadget
After news very incorrectly broke that Facebook were developing a dislike button, thanks to some poor wording from Mark Zuckerberg and a substantial amount of knee-jerking, speculation started to mount about what Facebook were really doing to change up the formula from the current, simplistic 'liking' system. Zuckerberg seemed to be suggesting that they were going to create a way to express empathy more easily over the platform, and it looks like that's exactly what they've done.

This new 'Reactions' feature enhances the like button, enabling a roster of more diverse emotional responses, represented by emojis. Simply hold the button down and you're met with a choice of another six different, more specific responses: love, laughter, happiness, shock, sadness and anger. The feature will be going out in a limited trial service in the coming weeks, starting with Ireland and Spain. How it does in these early stages could determine a lot about how Facebook's core model will change in the near future.

There has been no direct confirmation that this is what Zuckerberg was on about when he accidentally fired the starting pistol at the idiot relay, but it seems far too similar to the sentiment he was expressing for there not to be a link. Will this feature have the same scope for abuse that a dislike button would offer? Sure, you could respond to a celebratory post with an 'angry' emoji or a sad one with a 'laughter', but there's little to nothing stopping you from just doing that in a comment anyway, the only difference is that this way it won't be immediately obvious who you are. The more this story develops, the more I'm reminded of this:



If you aren't equipped (or simply can't be bothered) to watch that clip, it's from the film Donnie Darko. In it, students are instructed to read a scenario on a card and place it on a line between 'fear' and 'love'. Donnie argues that you can't condense emotion down into two poles. This is very similar, it's one thing to be able to silently, positively reinforce posts, photos and comments that you like, but another to measure everything in terms of good and bad. That's only really acceptable in scenarios which involve frogurt.



This is obviously far more acceptable than that, but it's still a way of condensing emotional responses into buttons, which is something I really struggle to get behind, especially when the comment box is right there. A first hand reaction is always better than a second hand one, and if you've taken the time to cast your eyes over a little crack team of emojis and cherry pick the one that best reflects your reaction, you aren't really reacting at all, are you? Fitting that they look so much like crudely made masks. This might not ever make it past the Irish/Spanish testing phase, but in any case I think Facebook would be better to focus their energy on more progressive things than trying to make empathy digital.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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Facebook Reactions - The Nearest We Will Ever Get to the Dislike Button Reviewed by Callum Davies on Thursday, October 08, 2015 Rating: 5

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