February 26, 2016

PUTTING INTO FOCUS | Facebook’s Emotional Side

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Earlier this week, I was greeted by the recent changes Facebook made to its “Liking” platform. Rather than only seeing the familiar blue thumbs up, I was met with a plethora of options, ranging from like to happy to surprise to angry. Sure, Facebook had warned us about this change, but none of us were entirely prepared for it. Now, as I scroll through my newsfeed, I am presented with a broader range of emotions, each characterized with a simple emoji.

This year, I had heard many stories of what Facebook likes mean to the broader public. To some, it means popularity. To others, it means appreciation. While the “Like” button did allow people to show their liking of a post, its meaning still remained vague.

The new Facebook reactions provide a more communicative way of appreciating or acknowledging what a person posts. Instead of saying you like something, you can say that you love something or that a specific post makes you happy. In other words, Facebook has provided a way to show our emotions, other than presenting a simple “Like.” A weather warning for example can allow people to justifiably react angrily or sadly. It seems like there is no other time than now to provide such a revolutionary system, especially when the word of the year is the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji.

However, in the social media world that has taken over the lives of many, we know all too well that it doesn’t only platform weather alerts.

While there are options such as “Love” and “Wow” that provide a positive connotation, other options such as “Angry” do not. Traditionally, there was only one way of reacting to a post, and that reaction was only in a positive manner. There was no negative connotation behind a “Like.” Now, it seems like people can be angry or sad about a post when there may be nothing to be angry or sad about.

The belief that a wide range of emotions can all be used in a positive way may be a tad too optimistic. In fact, many of these negative buttons can be used as a platform for cyber-bullies and other negative forces. Imagine that instead of having one like on a profile picture, you would have one like and 30 angry’s. How would that make a teenager feel? Not only does the adolescent have to worry about how many likes they may get, but they also have to worry about whether or not a post would make one of their viewers angry.

Our goal in life should not be to make others self-conscious, but to encourage empowerment and positivity.  No matter which way we cut it, social media has become a means of exposing a normal life behind a closed door. For some, social media may be rosy because of rising popularity, while for others, it might be a cause for depression and sadness. We need to resolve the cyberbullying epidemic by providing more platforms for positive emotion, instead of promoting negative reactions. While I agree that showing emotion enhances our communication in the new digital age, we need to cultivate a community that is positive and welcoming.

After all, “all we need is love.”

Ashley Radparvar is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is a music enthusiast, a self-proclaimed winter weather aficionado and an SNL devotee. In her spare time, she can be found on the slope, enjoying the wonderful views Ithaca has to offer. Putting It Into Focus appears on alternate Fridays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected].