After it was spotted in testing late last month, Facebook has now officially unveiled its new 'Care' Reactions for both Facebook and Messenger, which will provide another quick response option for COVID-19 related updates.
As you can see here, on Facebook, the 'Care' Reaction depicts a smiley face character hugging a heart, and will be the seventh Reaction added to the set.
On Messenger, you'll now have the option to change the existing 'Heart' response to a purple, beating animation of the same.
Facebook says that the new Reaction will give users another way to express a relevant emotion amid the current crisis, and better connect with other users.
As explained by Facebook's Fidji Simo:
“This idea of a hug reaction came back consistently as one of the emotions and feelings that were missing from Reactions, so that’s something that was always on our minds. And with the crisis that we're going through right now, there's no doubt that people need more compassion, more support.”
Facebook notes that facilitating more ways to empathize and sympathize can help to normalize challenging situations, which is an important part of dealing with the emotions stirred up by COVID-19. That said, Facebook also says that the 'Care' Reaction could also stick around after the current crisis, depending on how it's used.
“[COVID-19] is going to help us really understand how people are using it, whether they are finding value and whether this reaction is really specific to the moment in time that we are going through or if it’s more evergreen. Based on that, we'll decide whether we keep it or whether we remove it at the end of this crisis."
Facebook has experimented with various additional and alternative Reactions over time, though all of those have, indeed, been short-term changes, and in specific regions.
In the lead up to Mother's Day in 2016, Facebook added a new 'Thankful' Reaction in several markets, represented by a flower emoji.
Facebook's also tried out themed Reactions, like Star Trek and Halloween variants.
Given this, the new 'Care' Reaction is not a major leap, but it'll be interesting to see if it does, in fact, end up sticking around, and whether people find it useful when engaging with posts.
It could even end up being a distribution consideration - back in 2017, Facebook actually began weighing reactions more heavily than Likes within its algorithm, because according to Facebook:
"If people leave a Reaction on a post, it's an even stronger signal that they'd want to see that type of post than if they left a Like on the post."
That could, potentially, make the 'Care' Reaction an important consideration for, say, nonprofits or cause-based organizations, or even news organizations to some degree, depending on what the data shows.
And maybe, that could make Facebook a less hostile place for comments - maybe, if it's used enough, and Facebook weighs that specific Reaction more heavily, it could be a way to amplify more positive, empathetic conversations on the platform, as opposed to provoking hate by sharing posts that inspire 'Angry' responses.
Or, maybe it'll just be a short-term thing that provides another option during the COVID19 pandemic. Either way, it's an interesting addition, and it'll be worth keeping an eye out for the new Reactions in your Facebook streams.