Vicki McLeod

Will simple emoji reactions reduce our true expressions

Scrolling through the Facebook news feed can be an emotional roller coaster ride. Life and death, tragedy and comedy all flow across our screens at a scale and scope that isn’t really possible to consciously absorb, let alone respond to adequately.

A year or so ago, Facebook added ‘Reactions’ to its vocabulary of responses. Prior to the reactions rollout we could reply to a post by simply liking or commenting. If a post particularly moved you, or resonated, it could also be shared to your own newsfeed.

Reactions were designed as an extension of the ‘like’ button, and you receive a notification when they’re used, in the same way you are notified about likes on a post. If fans and followers use them your engagement rates go up.

The reactions lexicon includes six different animated emojis meant to express Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry. In May, for Mother’s Day, a purple flower was added to express thankfulness. Keep your eyes open on your newsfeed because rumour has it that the thankfulness flower may become a permanent emoji.

This month, Facebook announced, “We believe in building a platform that supports all communities. So we’re celebrating love and diversity this Pride by giving you a special reaction.” June is the month when LGBTQ community around the world celebrates Pride, so a rainbow flag emoji is currently available.

The reactions emojis were Facebook’s response to users reporting the awkwardness in having only the ‘like’ button as an option when responding to difficult or negative posts, for example, posts about the death of a loved one. In the announcement, Facebook product manager Sammi Krug said, “When people come to Facebook, they share all kinds of different things, things that make them sad, things that make them happy, thought-provoking, angry. We kept hearing from people that they didn’t have a way to express empathy.”

So let me make a side-argument here. With or without an increased range of emoticons, expressing more nuanced emotional reactions is challenging. Compassion, empathy, tenderness, relief, anticipation – these are subtle and sometimes complex sentiments.

This is why we have art, and poetry and music, mediums that are more suited to subtlety. I’m not sure we want to use social media and the Internet to fully convey the many shades of human feeling and expression. Artificial Intelligence is already in wide and common use. Can artificial emotional intelligence be far behind?

Facebook’s attempt to solve this problem through the reactions feature has some benefits, but I fear simple emoji reactions may further reduce the scope of our ability to truly express our more difficult human reactions.

As it is, we often find ourselves tongue-tied at important moments. We often fail to speak the words we want to say to loved ones before it is too late. We are prone to hide what we really feel. Skillfully learning to articulate emotional range can take a lifetime. Are we at risk at becoming even less skillful by relegating our emotional responses to a heart, flower or flag?

Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook or find her at www.vickimcleod.com.

Just Posted

Petition started to stop Maple Ridge road straightening project

Petition in response to proposed plan to straighten section of Fern Cres. towards Golden Ears Park.

VIDEO: Drive by shooting in Langley (updated)

Truck and house damaged in attack

UPDATED: Gunfire erupts in quiet Langley neighbourhood early this morning

Police have 79A Avenue cordoned off after reports of shots just before 5 a.m.

Fire safety concerns at Anita Place Tent City

Residents sacrificing safety for warmth

Candidates eyeing mayor’s chair in Maple Ridge

Daykin, Morden undecided about return to politics

VIDEO: Surrey Now-Leader reporter tries on a ‘drunk driving suit’

The suit from Ocean Park Ford emulates what it’s like to get behind the wheel after drinking

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

Flames win makes it three straight

Top Junior B teams clash in Abbotsf0rd on Saturday tonight

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

Dorsett has 2 goals, assist in Canucks’ 4-2 win over Sabres

‘It was a real good hockey game by our group,’ Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Berry disappointed: Bear tries to eat fake fruit on woman’s door wreath

A Winnipeg woman has taken her berry-embellished wreath down, after a hungry bear visited her porch

Most Read