And here’s my reaction to that announcement: ‘Dear Gods, what a bunch of hoo-hah!’
For years now, users have been demanding a ‘Dislike’ button to be included alongside its ‘Like’ counterpart, and this week the Facebook higher-ups completely disregarded that request to instead triumphantly launch Reactions, a new ‘Like’ button that also includes ‘Love’, ‘Ha-Ha’, ‘Wow’, ‘Sad’ and ‘Angry’.
Now you may think that I’m being a cynical old Viking fuddy-duddy and perhaps I am, because there’s been a downright outpouring since the launch announcement from delighted users who are just itching to get their hands on the new upgraded button. Numerous articles have appeared all over the interwebs describing how to access the new emojis, so you have no excuse for not letting your friends know how you feel about their well-thought-out posts with the simple click of a button and a generic animated doodle.
But here’s the thing; couldn’t you do that before? There are already literally hundreds of stickers you can add to a comment on Facebook if you’re so inclined, featuring every kind of character you can think of and covering a huge range of emotions. You can even add GIFs now for whatever reason. Or, Gods forbid, you could actually type in what you want to say instead of resorting to weird little cartoons – I know, it’s a radical idea but that’s just the way I roll, baby.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to including the odd 🙂 or 😛 emoticon when I’m writing a comment. I do it quite a lot in fact, because I like to show the emotion behind what I’m actually saying. But that’s not something you can always achieve with one single animated bit of nonsense. For example, if I post that the Head Viking has just given me a £100-a-year pay rise and someone gives me a ‘Wow’ emoji, is that a happy wow or a sarcastic wow? It’s easy to differentiate between ‘Wow!’ and ‘Wow.’ if you have the two seconds it takes to actually type that into the comments, but who knows with an emoji that kind of looks like someone’s just dropped their trousers in front of it?
The same goes for the ‘Angry’ emoji. Is the person angry about what’s been posted, angry that it’s been posted at all, or are they just generally having a shitty day and have added it in a grump? Guess. It could be anything. And to be honest, what’s the point of hitting ‘Angry’ on a post without explaining why you’re angry about it? Way to promote active discussion, Facebook!
So what exactly is the benefit of having these new Reactions emojis? I think the sad truth is that Facebook knows the society of today all too well and they’ve played up to it. They know that there’s a demand for things to be faster and easier with no need to think or react beyond a yellow emoji face, and they’ve slapped on Reactions amidst fireworks and streamers as something that facilitates that for us all. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a ‘Hug’ button, or a ‘Sympathy’ button added. I would have used both of those. But nope, you’ll never see either of them on Facebook, and why? Because they have no marketing value whatsoever, and that’s exactly what the new Reactions emojis are all about.
I’m no stranger to the original ‘Like’ button and I use it to acknowledge and appreciate the posts my friends make – to me, it’s a way of connecting. But I also know that the Facebook algorithms use my ‘likes’ to determine what I see in my News Feed, and to push content and adverts that are calculated to be of apparent interest to me. It’s not a secret. And it’s fecking annoying too.
Now they have another five buttons for me to use, so they can gather more information on what I love, what makes me angry or sad and what makes me laugh, and thus further manipulate what I see.
Where’s the proof, I hear you cry?
On 24th February 2016, Facebook’s Project Manager Sammi Krug released the following statement:
“Our goal with News Feed is to show you the stories that matter most to you. Initially, just as we do when someone likes a post, if someone uses a Reaction, we will infer they want to see more of that type of post. In the beginning, it won’t matter if someone likes, “wows” or “sads” a post — we will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content. Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.”
And that’s what bites. Although Facebook completely understands that it’s us who want the right to decide what we see in our News Feed, they set themselves up as the all-powerful overseers who will decide for us, and they assure us that they’re doing it for our benefit. But of course they’re not, they’re doing it to fine-tune the content they’re marketing to us to please their advertisers and keep the money rolling in. It’s that simple.
Now, I know that this has been a bit of a ranting tirade and if you’ve made it this far, I salute you! But I just have one more thing to say.
Our planet has beautiful and descriptive languages that can convey any emotion perfectly well. Go out of your way to take a little bit of time to use your words, and type meaningful comments that show you’ve given a post some thought and paid it some attention. You don’t have to write a lot, just express yourself in a way that doesn’t only involve a generic, yellow, animated face.
It’s easy, and it will mean so much more, believe me.