I'm not 100% clear on how this might be used, but according to a new discovery by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, Facebook is working on a new COVID-19 themed Reaction, providing another option for people to quickly respond to relevant posts.
Facebook is working on a COVID-19 themed reaction pic.twitter.com/B2MBIgjMlu— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) March 30, 2020
Which is a little strange.
Reactions, of course, are designed for exactly that purpose, to express an emotion triggered by the relevant post, without having to comment, and beyond a simple 'Like'. So in this sense, what would be the emotion people are sharing? And if it's not designed to represent a response, what is it for?
This wouldn't be the first time that Facebook has experimented with expanded Reactions, which, based on the visual cues alone, don't appear to represent actual emotional response.
In the lead up to Mother's Day in 2016, Facebook added a new flower Reaction in several markets, providing another way to respond to Mother's Day posts.
Facebook later clarified that the flower meant 'Thankful' - so despite it not visually portraying an emotion, it was intended to provide another way for users to express their gratitude to mothers, their own or more generally.
But that still doesn't indicate what the COVID-19 Reaction could represent. Maybe it'll be a way to share support for frontline the workers combating the virus, maybe it'll be tied to a charity drive of some sort to help raise funds on the platform.
Maybe it's just a rallying cry, a response to everything, given the overwhelming impacts of the pandemic. Maybe users are just exhausted and don't know how to feel - "just 'COVID-19', that's all".
Or maybe Facebook has another intended purpose that it plans to reveal in time.
Whatever the case may be, it'll be interesting to see if Facebook does go ahead with it, and how it might be used in that case.
Facebook has confirmed to SMT that the COVID-19 Reaction is in testing, but says that it has nothing more to share at this time.