As a lot of us continue to stay indoors, Facebook has become a go-to platform for many people to check in with their friends, family and neighbours during the current coronavirus pandemic. Today, to give us another way of showing support and presence in its apps, the company said it would add a new reaction for “care” — in the forms of an emoji face hugging a heart, and a pulsing heart — that will appear alongside the “thumbs up” for like, the basic heart, and the laughing, shock, sadness, and anger emojis.
This makes “care” the first addition to the list of reactions since it was expanded from a simple “like” button back in 2015 to give people more empathetic, quick responses to posts.
Starting next week, the care emojis will start appearing on Facebook’s main app (the emoji face embracing the heart), while the new reaction will appear on Messenger (in the form of a pulsing heart) from today. You can see the new heart by pressing on an existing reaction to change it, or by creating a new reaction to a chat.
“We hope these reactions give people additional ways to show their support during the #COVID19 crisis,” a spokesperson noted about the new emojis earlier today. “We know this is an uncertain time, and we wanted people to be able to show their support in ways that let their friends and family know they are thinking of them.”
Ahead of today, it looks like Pedja Ristic, a product designer at Facebook, was testing the reaction on his own posts, another hint it was coming.
This is relatively speaking a pretty small gesture: offering up an emoji in response to a post is not putting food on the table (nor shopping for it, which has become a challenge in itself), giving someone a guarantee of income, making sure that a person is not being misinformed about the scope of the novel coronavirus and how best to deal with that, nor indeed curing anyone who happens to get sick from this awful thing.
But in the scope of Facebook being a crucial part of many people’s support networks, ever more important as people live in isolation, it’s another way to make it more useful and more tuned to the kind of empathy we all need right now.
Facebook has been working on a number of levels to do something useful in the current health crisis. Its work has ranged from making stronger efforts to ferret out and remove misinformation, provide grants to those in media that are working to report the news well, separate grants to small businesses, supporting public health initiatives to get more important messages out, and like many others also donating masks to those in need.