Facebook is adding a new way for its 2.5 billion users to express empathy and compassion.
In response to the global coronavirus pandemic, Facebook will introduce two new “care” animated reaction emojis starting next week: There’s a yellow face hugging a heart for the core Facebook service, while in Messenger app it will appear as a pulsating, purplish heart.
“We hope these reactions give people additional ways to show their support during the COVID-19 crisis,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.
It’s the first expansion of Facebook’s emotional-reaction slate in over four years. In early 2015, it added five new emoji — for love, sadness, anger, “wow” and laughing — to the original iconic “like” reaction. Facebook users can add the new “care” reaction to posts, comments, images, videos or other content.
To add a reaction, users hold down the Like button on mobile apps or hover over the Like button on the desktop version of the site to see the reaction-emoji options.
For Facebook, the reactions are a key feature to spur users to connect on the platform — and ultimately spend more time on the service. By contrast, the company’s Instagram service has been leaning in the opposite direction: Instagram is testing hiding “like” counts, as a way to reduce competitive popularity-contest pressure on users.
Facebook to date has resisted introducing a “dislike” button: In the past, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the company didn’t just want to add what would amount to a “down-vote” option.
With the exception of “angry,” Facebook has steered clear of other negative emotions like disgust or jealousy. The social service had a special “thankful” purple-flower reaction — but that was available only for Mother’s Day in 2016 and 2017.
Meanwhile, Facebook in the next weeks plans to start showing warning messages in News Feed to users who have liked, reacted or commented on “harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that we have since removed,” VP of integrity Guy Rosen wrote in a blog post. The notices will provide info on COVID-19 hoaxes that have been debunked by the World Health Organization.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has canceled all large in-person events it had planned through June of 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Most Facebook employees will be required to work from home through at least the end of May 2020.