Facebook just rolled out a bunch of new emotions that users can choose for reacting to updates that include love, haha, yay, wow, sad, and angry icons.
We’ve clearly come a long way from the classic “Like” in our quest for the ultimate social media shorthand. From the controversial Twitter heart to the dumpling emoji, let’s take a look back at how our emotional iconography popped up.
Although rumors swirled about a Facebook “Dislike” button for a while, the social network giant said last fall it wouldn't go in that direction. The reaction icons just released globally are intended to help users show empathy instead of pure negativity.
Believe it or not but there was a span of three years before Facebook even had a “Like” button. At first, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t actually go for the “Like” button idea — also floated as an “Awesome” button — when his engineering team presented the feature, the New Statesman reported.
He was worried that this simplistic feedback would replace comments, and hamper sharing. It took a data scientist to turn things around by showing that “Liking” a post actually increased the number of comments. Can you imagine what would have happened with Awesoming? Ugh. Screaming-cat-face.
Twitter also introduced changes for users, although I’m still not happy about it. Initially you could use the “Favorite” button to star a particular tweet. Then, last November, the network replaced the option with “likes” denoted by a red heart.
To me, starring a tweet meant it was important. Hearting tweets about bad yet relevant news felt wrong — the opposite of what Twitter’s team wanted to achieve. “The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people,” their product manager posted at the time. My reaction? Angry-face.
And then there are the official emojis that we’ve come to know well. Emoji started in Japan in 1999 with little graphics, as this Fast Company oral history points out. That was back in the beeper days. Google and Apple debuted theirs in 2008, and not long afterward the emoji language was approved by the Unicode Consortium as an industry standard.
Getting a new official emoji into the mix hasn’t been easy. Just look at the ongoing push for a dumpling emoji. Although a bunch of new ones were released last year, the Unicode Consortium has some big decisions to make. I hug-face that cowboy one, but still wish someone would draft a cute prairie dog emoji. They go together.
Sometimes a string of emojis will still trip me up. Or I’ll squint at the phone and wonder why the tiny face is snorting. Overall, though, the emoticon evolution has been helpful in conveying what we mean across languages and cultures.
Young kids might not know this, but before emojis we had to use simple punctuation to convey tone and emotion in typed messages. We even had long debates about whether it was professional to use them at work. I know. Haha. Wow-face.