Are Facebook’s New ‘Reactions’ Good For Our Wellbeing?
Facebook recently announced that it is giving users more options when it comes to reacting to friends status updates and photos. Now, alongside the blue ‘like’ thumb we all know, new icons will include a heart (‘love’), a laughing face (‘haha’), a surprised face (‘wow’), a tearing face (‘sad’) and an angry face (‘angry’). Users can opt for one of these new icons by hovering over or tapping the ‘like’ button until an option menu pops up. The number of likes, loves, wows, sads, hahas and angry faces shows up at the top of the update, like a voting system.
Now, don’t get us wrong, we love social media and the opportunities it allows us to meet new people, read interesting articles and watch the latest videos. But is adding negative options such as ‘angry’ and even ‘haha’ good for our wellbeing?
Consider this: if a young person posts something on Facebook about their life, or voices an opinion on a topic, and they are given an ‘angry’ reaction from someone (who they consider themselves to be ‘friends’ with, at least in Facebook terms), isn’t there a chance it could have a negative effect on their wellbeing?
If you were to post something heartfelt, or about something you found difficult or painful, how would you feel if your update got a ‘haha’ reaction?
The introduction of Reactions could have a considerable impact on a young person’s self-confidence and general mindfulness. It is a huge departure from Facebook’s previous ‘like’ function, which tends to be used to rely a positive, supportive message to friends’ updates. By giving users the option to show anger, it is making the social environment a more negative space. Also, Reactions can’t currently be removed, so if a person responds to an update with a more negative icon, they have to stick by that decision. What sort of message is that sending to young people?
With children and young people using the internet more than ever, it’s important that they understand social media isn’t always a positive environment to share their feelings on. This isn’t scaremongering; cases of cyber bullying, particularly amongst teenagers, is on the increase and it’s vital that young people consider how they would deal with a negative reaction from an online friend. ‘Virtually Me - your manifesto for online life’ is an activity book aimed at 10-14 years olds that encourages them to confront both the good and bad sides of social media and enables them to write their own personal guide for getting the best out of their time online.
It’s interesting that Facebook rejected plans to include a ‘dislike’ button, after feedback suggested it was too negative. We hope that the new Reactions icons don’t add to the already immense pressure that some young people feel under when it comes to social media.
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