Reacting to reactions

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Facebook introduces Reaction buttons October 16. Alana Galloway '16

Rumors regarding the potential implementation of a dislike or reaction-based button on Facebook have been buzzing through cyberspace since September. In response, Facebook announced October 7 that they are testing “Reaction” buttons, which convey a new set of emotions, in addition to the traditional “Like.” Although this new feature is exciting, it includes hateful and hurtful emoticon options that have the power to create a negative online environment.
The like button on Facebook currently conveys positive feedback on posts and pictures. A dislike button, however, would have had the ominous power to construct a hostile online atmosphere. Therefore, Facebook chose instead to create a set of seven Reaction buttons, which appear when a user holds down the like button on a photo or post.
The button options include a thumbs-up entitled “Like,” a heart called “Love,” an open-mouthed smiley named “Haha,” a closed-mouth smiley referred to as “Yay,” a thoughtful open-mouthed “Wow” smiley face, a crying face called “Sad,” and a red “Angry” face.
Mr. Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Offer and Chief of Staff to Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, posted a video on facebook.com October 8, which explained that Facebook started testing the Reactions in Spain and Ireland, that day. If all goes well, Facebook will begin implementing this emoticon option in other countries, including the United States. Although I hope the trial is successful, I am worried about the Facebook community’s response to the Reaction buttons.

Facebook introduces Reaction buttons October 16. Alana Galloway '16
Facebook introduces Reaction buttons October 16.
Alana Galloway ’16

“We (Facebook) 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,” Mr. Cox said, in his online Facebook post.
Reactions increase the ease with which users can express themselves without having to comment. With the addition of these seven buttons, Facebook members now have the ability to express more than just the sentiment of “like.” Although I am certain that the “Like,” “Love,” “Yay,” and “Haha” options will not cause issues, the destructive and insolent connotations of the “Sad” and “Angry” emoticons have the power to convey malicious intentions.
The Internet and social media allow users to instantaneously convey a variety of messages. While the current like button, and the new “Love” and “Haha” buttons, portray optimistic sentiments, the mere idea of “Sad” and “Angry” buttons is fundamentally pessimistic. This is an unfortunate step backward for technology during a time of exceptional innovation and creation.
According to a survey of 10,000 young Internet users, conducted by nobullying.com, 70 percent were victims of cyberbullying in 2014. The survey also found that 75 percent of the individuals polled were Facebook members, 54 percent of whom admitted to being cyberbullied on this social network. I am concerned that this statistic will continue to rise if Facebook chooses to globally implement Reaction buttons.
Although there is no way to completely eliminate the injustices of  victimization and bullying from society, Facebook definitely should not be promoting them with the introduction of “Sad” and “Angry” buttons.
I am worried that the availability of negative buttons will provoke unnecessary hate throughout cyberspace. There are already too many mechanisms that promote bullying, such as anonymous means of sending messages and Snapchats that vanish within seconds. Therefore, there is no need for Facebook to contribute to this growing list.
Most people are excited when they receive new Facebook notifications indicating that someone has liked their photos. I believe that these positive feelings would immediately turn into distress if people found that their notifications were evidence of someone disliking their posts through emoticon Reactions.
Facebook most likely created the “Sad” and “Angry” buttons to help members respond to gloomy and frustrating posts, but I fear these Reaction buttons may be abused.
Mr. Zuckerberg addressed the issues regarding Reactions in a question and answer session live-streamed from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, September 15.
“It’s important to give people more options than just ‘Like’ to help express empathy and sympathy,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Not every moment is a good moment.”
Although the concept of this new Reaction button has raised concern regarding its potential to encourage cyberbullying, I hope that Mr. Zuckerberg’s belief that it will be used for good is correct. If it is not, the button will serve to foster an online environment of cruelty and hostility. I do not want to see an increase in global cyberbullying statistics as a result of what are essentially pixelated square buttons on computer screens.
– Alana Galloway, Content Editor