Over the past few months I’ve broken myself from the habit of using the Facebook reaction buttons. It was a more difficult process than I assumed it would be, as it’s so easy to tap the reaction area and select the emotion which most matched my mood at the time. It didn’t require me to engage with others, formulate my own thoughts, or otherwise contribute anything constructive to a post. It felt good to like some things, laugh at others, and love still more. I always tended to shy away from the anger reaction, because even at my most reaction-addicted I thought it cheapened such a complex emotional state of being.
Now I’m concerned the reaction buttons manage to cheapen the entire gamut of the human emotions which they represent.
In many ways I get the appeal. I experienced the appeal. Facebook reactions are catharsis, they breathe into being the inner stirrings of our heart 1. The problem is, they cost us nothing. Real catharsis should demand something from us – the energy required to write out a response, a sense of exhaustion after expressing great joy, the tears of joy or sorrow which run down our faces – all Facebook reactions demand from us is the attention span necessary for sustaining an emotion long-enough to click or tap an icon. We can be angry at something in one moment, and love something a moment later. Our social catharsis depends on what’s on our feed. As the feed is always moving, the discipline of processing our strong emotions is detrimental to Facebook’s need to be fed. I fear we’ve become lesser for it, and it’s a deal I’m no longer willing to make.
If I engage on Facebook now I refuse to use the reaction icons 2, though I have an occasional lapse. Instead, I will either attempt to engage a post with an honest expression of where I am in the comments or share a post on my own wall with my own thoughts attached. My Facebook expressions remain cathartic, but now it costs me something to reach this catharsis. If I have neither the time nor the energy to engage beyond a momentary scan of my feed then I don’t feel it was worth expressing any reaction at all.
The same has become true in WordPress 3. Whereas I used to enjoy “liking” posts in the blogs I follow, I will now only tap the star if I’ve left a comment on that post. It matters to me that people see a semblance of a person behind the username on the page.
I don’t claim a definitive observation everyone must come to accept. I can only state where I am an why. For me, the price of no cost Facebook catharsis was far too high to pay.
About the cover image
A path at Willingboro Lakes Park
Panasonic G7 with 14-42mm lens • 14mm • ISO 125 • ƒ/3.5 • 1/1250 sec