Facebook’s “Like” button is getting a little more emotionally nuanced, if such a term may be applied to little yellow cartoons meant to encapsulate broad ranges of human feelings. The world’s dominant social network is rolling out a new feature called “Reactions,” which allows users to add one of six emojis to their “Likes” to convey a bit more meaning than a simple “thumbs up.”
Most of the emojis are iterations of the classic yellow “smiley face,” with options including “Haha,” “Yay,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry.” There’s also a “Love” button that’s just a heart. Facebook is testing the Reactions emojis in Spain and Ireland before introducing them to the rest of the world.
There’s no question that Facebook needed to provide a way for users to refine their responses to content posted by other users online, as reflected in previous rumors that it might introduce a “Dislike” button. To cite one example among many, if you want to demonstrate recognition and express condolences when someone announces that a loved one has passed away, “Like” and a thumbs up is clearly not a suitable statement, even if everyone basically knows what you mean; it still just doesn’t look right.
Because human emotions are a bit of a mess, there’s plenty of overlap and multiple uses for the emojis: “Yay” can mean pride, excitement, anticipation, congratulations, or relief something is over. Of course there’s always the potential for antagonistic or sarcastic uses of emojis too (“Haha” can also be the schadenfreude emoji).
But as a pedantic jerk I can’t help but point out that the emojis still don’t cover the full range of human emotions. What about, say, an emoji for jealousy, envy, or coveting, maybe with green cheeks and a glassy, slightly vacant stare? It sounds silly, but considering the importance that advertising and commerce plays in Facebook’s business model, it could actually be really useful, and not just for users: if someone buys a new stereo system and someone else responds with the “covet” emoji, that might be a marketing lead.
Throwing out a couple more feelings that aren’t covered: confusion, anxiety, melancholy (definitely not the same as sadness -- just ask a Victorian aesthete), revulsion (not anger), trust, determination, wild/out of control, and who could forget that golden oldie… total indifference!