The news that Facebook was introducing something other than a “like” button took the media by storm. Countless outlets ran stories announcing that Facebook was introducing a “dislike” button. That was just one of many myths that abound about Facebook. What Facebook is actually doing is trialling a series of emotive responses in a few locations around the world — one of them happens to be Ireland, where I live.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been watching as Irish Facebook users reacted to, adopted and used the new emotive buttons. Here’s what I found.
The Emotive Buttons
With the new emotive buttons, rather than a single reaction — the like — you are able to respond in six different ways: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry.
These reactions are clearly carefully chosen. This isn’t the up- or down-voting you find on sites like Reddit. As Zuckerberg himself said,
“We didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create.” — Mark Zuckerberg
Reacting with the “Angry” emotive doesn’t necessarily mean you’re angry at the person, but instead that the content they’ve posted upsets you. Although you could still start a flamewar if you really wanted, the way the emotive reactions are introduced makes the focus on the content and the person reacting, rather than on the person causing the reaction. It’s a way to show empathy rather than anything else.
I think Facebook has done very well here.
Likes Are Still the Most Popular Reaction
Although Facebook only introduced the emotive reactions a few weeks ago, they have some way to go before they replace likes.
Most of my friends default to clicking “Like” rather than delivering a more thoughtful response. Of the things I’ve posted to Facebook since the emotive reactions were introduced, only a few have prompted more than a “Like”. Facebook’s “Like” button is so ingrained in popular culture that it is going to take a lot for it to stop being most users’ instinctive response to all but the most emotional content.
People Are Using them More and More
Measuring the adoption of the emotive buttons, even among my own friends, however, is hard. Although I’ve a large friend list (probably too large), only around a third of them are Irish and have access to the emotive reactions. It’s the same for content from around the web — most people responding to the things I see on Facebook can’t use the new options.
The big thing is that I’m starting to see them creep into most posts that create a significant response. Any popular viral story or post from a big page that appears in my Timeline has a range of different reactions below it. While the Rugby World Cup was on, every story about it received some emotive reactions. Some people in Ireland (including me), definitely are using them.
As Facebook rolls them out to more users, I think they’re going to take off. As I mentioned already, it will be hard for them to replace “Likes”, but I think they’ll still be widely used.
What They’re Like to Use
Personally, I’m a big fan of the new emotive reactions. They give me the ability to react contextually. When yet another Irish rugby player got injured, I didn’t want to “Like” the news story announcing it, I wanted to cry. With the emotive reactions I was able to go someway towards doing it. This is exactly how Zuckerberg wanted them to be used.
Similarly, when something wonderful, or hilarious, or awe inspiring happens, it’s liberating to be able to respond appropriately. Facebook has always taken itself very seriously and the emotive reactions perhaps demonstrate a little lessening of that. Facebook is never going to be Myspace, or god-forbid, Bebo, with endless customisation, but it is nice to see them bring in a feature that’s been long requested by users.
They Really Only Work Within Ireland (and Spain)
The most annoying thing about the emotive reactions is that they are really limited to Ireland for the time being. I tried to wind up some of my co-workers by responding with inappropriate reactions to everything they posted but they didn’t even receive a notification. Similarly, they can’t view other people’s emotive reactions on my posts. It’s quite weird having this tool on a worldwide social network yet only being able to use it with my local friends.
Who knows when Facebook will roll them out to everyone, but judging by how the trial seems to be going from within it, I’d say it will be sooner rather than later. Although they haven’t replaced the “Like” button, they are being used and I haven’t seen any major Internet flame wars over people using them inappropriately.
What Do You Think?
Facebook’s new buttons have been getting a lot of coverage by people who haven’t used them yet. I’ve had a chance to play around and see them in action, and, I have to say, I like the direction Facebook has gone with them. The add a new dynamic to how you react to things online. Although it’s a small change, it’s an important one.
Now that you’ve heard from someone with first-hand experience, what do you think? Are you going to use them when Facebook rolls them out internationally or will you just stick with the “Like” button?