New Facebook Reactions offer little worth liking

David Bordelon

Editor's note: This column appears in a point-counterpoint regarding Facebook's new "Reactions." Read this column's corresponding counterpoint here.

Imagine a world where the extent of human emotion is encapsulated in six words: like, love, haha, wow, sad, angry. Imagine that to express these venerable emotional states one merely has to click a button which adds a little face on a screen. Imagine then the complete satisfaction one receives from having shared the full gamut of human emotion online to one of their “friends” — this is the emotional world that Facebook is creating.

Recently, Facebook revamped their “Like” system, now called “Reactions,” to include the above-mentioned emotions. Zuckerberg stated the company was looking to increase ways of expressing sympathy — a noble approach. However,
expanding the bland “Like” system to include other emotions only reduces the human experience of sharing legitimate emotion, while simultaneously hurting those who receive no acknowledgment.

The problem with the new system of “Reactions” is that both posters and reactors experience a false sense of shared emotions. Emptily clicking “Sad” on a melancholy post or mindlessly clicking “Love” on a celebratory one reduces the human act of sharing emotion to one of detachment. I see something sad, and I click “Sad” merely because that’s the “right” thing to do, not because I am genuinely sad or because I empathize. 

Worse still, clicking “Sad” may give me a false sense of fulfillment that I shared emotion with someone when all I have done is clicked a button. These emotions need more than a mere click to be truly expressed. In a way, clicks try to quantify an unquantifiable phenomenon — what exactly does five “Sads” even mean?

The blandness of the old “Like” system was exactly what made it superior to the complexity of the new “Reactions.” However, even the “Like” system devolved into searching for validation. A post’s number of likes became almost directly tied to the poster’s self-worth. “Reactions” takes that principle and exacerbates it. To receive no “Likes” for a picture of your food is annoying, but to receive no “Sads” for a heart-wrenching post about your dying grandma is horrifying.

Thus, “Reactions” hurts everyone. It hurts those who deludedly believe they’re expressing empathy and those who unfortunately receive none of that faux-empathy. I would recommend doing away with all “Reactions,” “Like” included. To avoid this mess of reducing the primal, beautiful phenomenon of emotion into clicks, pixels and empty-headedness, I would recommend showing genuine care for friends by writing comments, making phone-calls or, God forbid, face-to-face communication.

Bordelon is a philosophy sophomore from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @davbord.