I should begin by expressing some discomfort with the inhomogeneity of the response list that Facebook offers. I can say that I like a post or love a post, but I cannot say that I angry a post. The lack of parallelism is irritating, but, if one is limited to single words—Facebook could hardly offer essays here—perhaps perfect parallelism has to be sacrificed. Let’s move on to my main concerns.
The proffered options do not capture all possible emotions a post might elicit. Whereas it is too much to ask that every conceivable human emotion be represented by an icon, some obviously useful options are unavailable. For instance, I can dislike a post without its making me angry (or its presence making me angry). Why is there not a DISLIKE option? Why is there not a HATE option, which could be distinguished both from DISLIKE and ANGRY? One could make a case also for INDIFFERENT and UNFUNNY. Possibly even for JOYFUL. There are probably other emotions I haven’t even thought of that might be appropriate in particular circumstances.
At times, no single response, even were the option list expanded, seems adequate. I might want to select both WOW and SAD or LIKE and HAHA. Facebook demands that I only indicate one emotion. Why can’t I select more than one?
There is often ambiguity about what one’s reaction is actually responding to. A person can post a news story, op-ed, or editorial and introduce it with original commentary. I do this all the time and am sometimes perplexed when someone posts a link to external material without comment. Why is this person bringing the material to my attention? Assuming that the poster does offer an introduction, when one selects a response, is it intended as a reaction to the poster’s commentary or to the material being commented upon? This ambiguity can result in people known to share similar views to select LIKE, on one hand, and ANGRY on another. For example, I can post an op-ed with which I strongly disagree and introduce it with an explanation of why I find it so horrible. Does someone in complete agreement with me select LIKE (or even LOVE), or do they select SAD or ANGRY? I suspect that users are inconsistent in what they do. This makes it difficult to discern what others are trying to say.
I suggest that Facebook should allow us to post separate reactions to external material and to the introductory commentary on that material. In the above example, a person should be able to select ANGRY concerning the op-ed and LIKE concerning my own commentary (or some other combination of reactions). This would actually be easier for Facebook to implement than allowing multiple reactions to the same material. In posts involving external material and an introduction to it, Facebook could simply add another thumbs-up icon at the end of the introduction. This would amount to treating the poster’s commentary as a post in its own right, separate from the material that is the subject of that commentary. If a user only selects a response beneath the post, that response can be assumed to be a reaction to the whole package.
I don’t know if Facebook will adopt any of these ideas. The operation of Facebook seems constantly to be changing, often to no particular purpose. Maybe Facebook could give my suggestions a try. I hope, in any case, that, in the future, users will be able to react to posts in more precise and useful ways.
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