Technology

Sarconi: Facebook’s latest update is ironically anti-social

The largest social media site in world history just ironically added an anti-social feature.

Facebook has reduced the human language down to six emotions with an update that allows users to do more than just “like” a post. They can now respond with “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry.”

According to Facebook, this is something the masses have been dying to have. In a blog post about the change, the company said, “We’ve been listening to people and know that there should be more ways to easily and quickly express how something you see in News Feed makes you feel.”

It’s understandable as to why it added these expressions, but I wish they made a “stupid” option too, because that’s how I would rate it on Facebook.

I may be old school — well, as old school as a 21-year-old can be — but I’m a fan of just keeping “like.” It’s simple and it gets the point across. If a user wants to add anything else, they can just comment on the post. They can use their words and actually express themselves in a way that goes beyond the six emotions at their disposal.

I’m going to put it like this: If you meet someone and ask how they are doing and they say three words, albeit expressive ones, would you consider them social? Now contrast that person with someone who says 100 words and goes in-depth about it. It’s clear who the more social person is.

This change by Facebook highlights the funny thing about social media. I’m not the first person to say this, but it’s not really all that social. A more accurate, but definitely less sexy name, would be: communicate media.

Facebook isn’t giving people more options to express themselves — they’re giving them less incentive to do so. Instead of commenting on a post and saying, “this makes me happy because of X, Y and Z,” people are going to hit the “happy” button and move on. It completely leaves out the why and the how.

It may not seem like a big deal, but the why and the how are important parts of communicating with people face-to-face.

These means of communication are likely due to the widespread popularity of emojis. A like or just a simple smiley or sad face isn’t flashy enough. Especially not when there are things like the “laughing crying face,” “smiling face with open mouth and cold sweat” and even, “disappointed but relieved face.”

It’s kind of crazy how many emotions there are. In fact, there are so many different types of faces that there is website called Emojipedia to help you find the perfect emoji to describe your feelings.

Don’t get me wrong: I use emojis just as much as the next person. I love them, and they can be perfect for certain situations. But I also question how it affects our ability to communicate with one another. One day — perhaps it’s already here — will we verbally say an emoji face when asked how we are doing?

Twenty-one percent of young Americans use their phones to avoid interacting in groups, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. That’s probably because we don’t know how to have real conversations. We’re not confident in doing so because we’re used to doing it over social media.

I don’t want to sound like the old grandpa here, but I know I do, so I’ll own it. Facebook’s new features are yet another way of diminishing our ability to describe our thoughts and feelings.

There’s an old saying that an image speaks a thousand words. The 21st century version of that saying has to be: Six expressions can speak a thousand words.

They have to — people don’t know how to express themselves anymore.

Paul Sarconi is a senior broadcast and digital journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at pjsarcon@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @paulsarconi.

Comments

Top Stories