The poverty of communication by emoticon

Reactions FacebookI’ve never liked the blunt instrument that is the ‘Like’ button on Facebook. How do you ‘Like’ a story about tragedy? Is ‘Like’ the right response when someone posts something about a loved-one dying? Obviously I’m far from being alone in thinking that there has to be a better way. I still think there has to be a better way, but Facebook’s cute new little range of emoticons is absolutely not that thing.

Now instead of a single blunt instrument, we have six equally blunt instruments which are also rather creepy. Love, HaHa, Sad and Angry are the approved responses to anything you read on Facebook. And you can only choose one, so there’s only one approved response available to you.

It’s also opaque to me what the responses are supposed to convey. Are you saying that the post made you angry? That you’re angry with the author? That the subject engendered anger? As with the Like button, there’s so many ways of interpreting the emoticon that it’s virtually meaningless as a means of communication.

Except now that they exist there’s going to be a perceived subtlety, which the simple Like button didn’t require. When you could only press Like it had to stand in for everything else – it covered ‘I like what you’ve done’ to ‘I’m recognising you did something.’ and all the stops in between. Now, if you just press Like does that mean you didn’t Love your uncle’s picture of his car? Does Wow mean you find it shocking that your friend can recognise ten countries on a map, or are you impressed that she can get to that many?

What on Earth happened to using words to convey an idea or emotion?  😉

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