Just last week, I had the great fortune of interacting with one of the core members of the Facebook design and UI team. He was on the same flight as me and we were both sharing elbow space as he got to the airport late and got caught with a middle seat. His lack of punctuality worked wonders for me. I cannot give out his name for reasons of confidentiality. He has received many death threats from the Logic-Mujahideen for his contribution to the Facebook design.
You guessed right. He is the brains behind the “Grateful” reaction emoticon on Facebook that has made grown men behave like bridesmaids at a wedding. He was a bright, 23-year-old engineer from Harvard. He would often stalk the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. He once followed him into a bar, explained his fanboy-ness and challenged Markzi (as he refers to him) to a drinking contest. They bet that if Mr.Anonymous won, he will be made the head of the design team and his additions to the Facebook User experience will not be questioned. Clearly, he won!
On learning about his supreme intelligence, I went into a nostalgic conversation with him about the evolution of the “like button”. I mentioned how back in the good old days, all you had to do on Facebook was scroll down our timelines (or as earlier called a walls) and “like” stuff? Those were the simpler times. There was very less room for over analyzing. Most times the “like” did not mean you liked something. It was sort-of like an acknowledgment to the post.
In Feb 2016, Facebook added to our troubles and brought feelings into social media. They replaced the “like” button with a “reaction” button. Now every time I saw a post on Facebook, I was forced to make an emotionally influenced decision. Sometimes, even if you love the post, you cannot hit the “love” reaction, without risking a creepy vibe. Also with reactions, the meaning could be misinterpreted. For example, if a friend of mine were to put a photo of a cat. I go into self-introspection. Do I like cats? Love cats? Do cats anger me? Make me sad? The spectrum of reactions is extremely wide. Imagine the same post with a caption “Yay! got a new cat! #cat #catlove”. Now my reaction could mean a million permutations and combinations. By hitting the “love” reaction, I could infer-
1. I love cats.
2. I love THIS cats.
3. I love the caption.
4. I love the fact that there is a cat in your life and that you think “#Catlove” is a socially acceptable hashtag.
Now you may raise a question, Why didn’t I have such a deep consciousness when it came to the like button? The answer is simple. When it’s a “like” it’s redundant. Everyone is doing it. When you bring in more complex emotions like “Love and Anger” my reactions on social media are subject of scrutiny.
Coming back to my conversation with Mr.Anonymous. I asked him where exactly does he intend to use the “Grateful” reaction. He said he has no idea. “Facebook as getting a little too smart,” he said. “People were starting to understand that we read their cookies to direct products to them and make millions on ads. We needed a subtle perception change. To make us look like we are a company run by drug abusers, who would add the most random features.” To sum things up, their aim was to make users question the sanity of people running a million dollar enterprise.
He also gave me an inside scoop on their next project. Apparently, they are adding a “flip you” reaction to the strip. This will allow users to flip a person off on their posts. It’s a reaction that should have been added to the first beta, but back then they did not have bright minds like Mr.Anonymous working with them. The “flip you” reaction will only come in the a bring yellow colour, unlike Whatsapp where they offer opportunities for racial profiling. They believe nothing is more annoying than getting flipped off by a character from the Simpsons. The new reaction will be animated, so the middle finger will raise in slow motion to give a delusive element-of-surprise. This reaction is said to bring out a revolution in the way people express on social media. Personally, for me, I will finally have an appropriate reaction to the cat photo.