Facebook’s newest reaction is a virtual hug

Facebook reactions launched as a way to quickly respond when a like just didn’t suffice — and now the platform’s latest reaction is a way to send a virtual hug during social distancing.

On Friday, April 17, Facebook revealed a new “care” reaction for the Facebook app and Messenger.

The new reaction depicts Facebook’s usually yellow smiley face emoji, but gives the character arms to hug a heart. On Messenger, the reaction appears as a purple heart. Facebook says that a hug is one of the most frequently requested reactions.

Facebook

“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,” Facebook’s Alexandru Voica tweeted in a thread sharing the new reaction.

The current reactions — like, love, haha, wow, sad, and angry — have not been changed since Facebook first expanded reactions beyond a simple like in 2016.

Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, suggests that the care reaction goes a bit further in conveying sympathy or emotional support, beyond the existing sad or love responses.

The reaction is already rolling out to Messenger beginning today, while users on the Facebook app will start seeing the new hug emoji in the list of reactions next week.

Creating a new reaction involves more than just creating new graphics when working on a worldwide social media network. Simo said that the reaction needed to convey meaning for users in different countries and cultures around the world. But besides being a quick way to respond, using an emoji rather than written language conveys a universal expression.

“We actually think that a lot of the value of reactions is that they express universal feelings that unite us all,” Simo told The National. “In designing this particular reaction we were particularly inspired by the outpouring of global support that we’ve seen during the crisis and wanted to provide an experience that would help people convey support across borders.”

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