None of us are content with a simple “like” anymore. Facebook introduced reaction emojis several years ago to allow us to express more emotions.
According to internal documents, this strategy may have backfired.
The reports include comments from employees who openly wondered if one particular reaction could be “engagement bait” and not exactly live up to the company mission statement — which is, in part, “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
According to internal documents, clicking an angry reaction is five times more likely than a simple like to reach a wider audience. That’s because we are more drawn to bad news and drama than posts about a recent trip to Yosemite or what we had for supper last night.
We apologize to wild wolves, and your chicken lo mein. We’re more interested in pratfalls, diatribes against government aggression, and arguing with each other. When someone clicks the angry reaction, it’s almost like they are trying to start an argument. Okay, fine: It’s because They are starting an argument.
In the report, a commenter is quoted as saying, “I’ve been collecting evidence around how anger reactions, overall, is weaponized (sic) by political figures and creative negative incentives on the platform.” That doesn’t sound good. To me, the anger reaction seems to be fuel for a firestorm that conspiracy theorists can use to spread misinformation faster and for their own gain.
Facebook loves angry people. They are fine-tuned by the algorithm.
Everyone clicks the angry response, which means that content spreads faster across other users’ feeds. Bad news travels quicker and also receives more reactions.
I’ve written about this before, but the human brain is triggered and ready to react faster to negative information. It’s why the nightly news for the last few decades has focused on the misfortunes of others. Bad news sells and also stimulates your brain cells. We turn our attention toward misfortune because we’re always analyzing the situation around us (or on our screens) to determine if we need to react (known as the flight or fight mechanism). It would be great if more people realized this.
As with many of our basic instincts, social media companies have figured how to tap into these and create higher profit margins.
Clicking on the angry reaction feels good. Even if it takes only one click, it provides some form of retribution. “I’m going to let this person know I’m angry” feels better to our brains than clicking like on a puppy photo.
Facebook is happy, however, to encourage and reinforce all of these base instincts. Facebook is not for people who can control their emotions well. It’s the opposite. Facebook loves you more if you have less control over your emotions and are less aware of them. They love the angry. The ones who don’t know how to do research. They click, click, and click all day without thinking.
Perhaps you could even say that the primary demographic is angry users who use a mouse. Users who are happy and have nothing to complain about are likely doing other things.
The question we have to ask now that the Facebook Papers are in the public and we’re starting to wonder what really goes on behind the like button, is when will it end? Although we know that there was internal discussion on this topic, the anger reaction is still evident. It’s enough to make us all even more angry.