Beyond The 'Like' Button: Facebook Comes To Our Emotional Rescue


How many emotions does a human experience? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Maybe it depends on the language you speak?

Many psychologists will actually tell you that there are six basic emotions — happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger and disgust — and from there, it's all just variations and combinations. Some scientists, in fact, have gone as low as four. The BBC reported last year that Glasgow University researchers suggested melding anger with disgust and fear with surprise after finding overlaps in the associated facial expressions.

Facebook, too, has done some emotion research of its own to prepare for the expansion of the "Like" button into a series of more nuanced reactions.

"We studied which comments and reactions are most commonly and universally expressed across Facebook, then worked to design an experience around them that was elegant and fun," Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox wrote in a post unveiling the "Reactions" trial for Ireland and Spain.

The outcome, as expressed by the ever-embraced emojis, is certainly a big improvement on the single-tone "Like," even if not an extremely nuanced one: "Like," "Love," "Haha," "Yay," "Wow," "Sad" and "Angry."

Lots of people have urged Facebook to let them "Dislike" posts and pages, and from that perspective, it's notable to see Facebook's continuing commitment to eliciting reactions that are emotional ("this is how I feel") rather than judgmental ("this sucks"). NPR's Aarti Shahani and folks over at Radiolab have reported on Facebook's work in linguistics and conflict resolution that appears reflected in the "Reactions" choices.

And of course, no story about Facebook and emotions can omit a reference to the social network's study of "emotional contagion," in which Facebook secretly altered what thousands of their users saw in their home-page news feeds to find out whether exposure to more sad posts made people sadder.

So with this new "Reactions" trial, Facebook gave us a range of six new emotions. And even if four of them do coincide with the classic "basic six," it seems restricting. Having originally planned this post as an introduction of your new All Tech Considered host (hello!), I decided to test-drive the Facebook Seven as a guide to tell you a few things you can expect from this blog as it gets a new personality and lead — pretty much like a Doctor Who regeneration. (Select "haha" or "wow" here; "cringe" unavailable.)


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If something in tech is making you feel this emotion, feel free to share with us. If something we write makes you angry, also feel free to share, but here's a new rule: First, you have to watch three cat videos in a row. This could be the start of a comment section revolution! Ha. Haha.


See what I did there? (Remember, "cringe" is not an available emotion.)

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