Facebook’s “Reactions” Miss the Point

As much as we may hate to admit it, Facebook has become a big part of our lives. It’s often the first place that people go to announce their engagement, pregnancy, new job or some other positive life event. A picture gets posted, the number of “likes” grows and congratulatory comments pop up.

Facebook also is the place where we often find out about the not-so-good happenings in the lives of our family and friends. But we aren’t as comfortable clicking the “like” button on these types of Facebook posts – posts about deaths, serious illness, breakups or other hardships.

Someone in the Facebook office must have been listening because they (finally) launched “reactions” – a variety of emotions that users can choose from when reacting to a post in their newsfeed instead of passively hitting the “Like” button. As Slate put it, “Mark Zuckerberg had finally conceded that the platform needed a more nuanced way for users to interact with posts, for the obvious reason that not every post is likable.”

These reactions were introduced in order to give users “more ways to easily and quickly express how something you see in News Feed makes you feel.” But do theyreally provide the solution? Do you feel better clicking on “sad” or “angry” on a post about someone’s parent passing away, or a child that has cancer?

Facebook -reactions- Miss the point

What Facebook is trying to solve with “reactions” is a human issue, not a technology issue. Imagine that you see an acquaintance at the grocery store, and he tells you that his wife just had a miscarriage. How do you react? Do Facebook’s “reactions” help you in this situation? What do you do when you receive a phone call that your best friend has cancer? And, what happens when you get that text telling you there’s been an accident…?

On the other side of those scenarios is a real person whose life has just been turned upside down. When my mom passed away suddenly, I didn’t care about the reactions from people on Facebook. Seeing a “sad” or “angry” emoji wouldn’t have helped me get through that experience. What did help was the support of my friends and family – in the flesh. My co-worker who said no words but just gave me a hug and let me cry. My then-boyfriend (now husband) who was there with me as I made funeral arrangements. And my family that made sure I ate even when food was the last thing on my mind.

Let’s focus on our developing our own ability to support people as they endure life’s hardships rather than spending our brainpower deciding which “reaction” is best.  

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