Facebook Reactions Aren’t Working

Sean Thompson

Facebook rolled out reactions to the masses in February 2016. It allows people to express love, laughter, surprise, sadness, and anger, in addition to the like they rolled out seven years earlier.

Adding a reaction to a comment or post affects who sees it. Typically, the more people react to something, the higher it appears on your feed. Facebook’s algorithms for turning these reactions into an exact position are their own intellectual property. We can make some assumptions by using their software, and infer what they’re trying to achieve from the occasional Facebook announcement.

Initially, Facebook said that all reactions would be treated as likes. Earlier this year they announced that reactions would be treated as more important than likes, and would result in posts being more visible in your feed. It’s not clear how they’re weighted though.

What is clear, is the people still want a dislike button. In its absence, we tend to resort to the anger reaction. That skews the data. Disliking something should make it less visible, but it appears as though Facebook are promoting posts and comments which make people angry.

I don’t want an feed which angers me.

Complaints damage your brain. It doesn’t matter whether you’re complaining, or you’re being complained to. Being exposed to negativity makes complaining a habit, and reduces your ability for problem solving.

If people are reacting negatively to a comment or a post it should be folded, not promoted. Have you ever seen this — A post linking to a news story about a tragic event, thousands of well wishers in the comments, and one negative comment at the top marked with an angry face? I find it far too common an occurrence.

I would prefer a system which promotes curation of content by the community, by giving us all more agency and controls which cause intuitive changes. Like is positive, and love and laughter are more positive. Anger is negative.

Which of the following posts or comments do you think you would come away from feeling warm and fuzzy?

And which would be likely to offend you, making you respond with a complaint or an angry reaction? Unfortunately, when you do that you promote what you’ve responded too.

I want a feed which makes me smile.

If people are using the angry reaction when they don’t like something, demote those items. The angry reaction is a dislike button.

Let me see some things people like, and loads of things people love and laugh over. Hide things that make my friends and family angry. If something makes people go ‘wow’, that’s a multiplier — bubble up the good stuff, and bury the angry items.

Don’t make assumptions about what people find saddening. You’re a computer — you’re not ready to draw conclusions from human sadness! We still want to be able to offer sympathy to our loved ones when they’re going through something difficult. Some sad posts are important.

Negative feelings are more potent than positive ones. Facebook shouldn’t be amplifying that. It should assume we’ll see even a few negative posts or comments as dominant, and do everything it can to keep them hidden.

People don’t solve problems by complaining. Telling a dozen Facebook contacts that you bought a shoddy product or that you don’t agree with a news article doesn’t address the issue. It just creates toxicity, which spreads to other people’s feeds and makes them more likely to complain.

Smile, and the whole world smiles with you.

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