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Social media is a busy place at the best of times. Facebook has well over two billion users, and most of those users post at least a few times a week to let all of their friends and family know how they are, and what they’ve been doing. We’re not living in ‘the best of times’ right now, though. We’re living in a time when more people are at home with nothing to do than any point in history, and that’s increasing the demand on social media no end. 

Almost every form of digital entertainment has seen a huge surge in usage over the past few months, from social media to video gaming networks and TV and movie streaming services. Netflix, the biggest name in the world of digital streaming, has even had to reduce the maximum quality of its videos to save bandwidth and allow more people online at the same time. Facebook hasn’t had to make any cutbacks just yet – but it has been making a few changes to reflect the needs of its users at this difficult time. 

For many years now, Facebook users have had more options than just ‘like’ when it comes to reacting to the pictures and statuses that their friends post on their news feeds. If you see something that makes you laugh, you can let the poster know with a laughing emoji. If anything angers you, you can deploy an ‘angry’ react to send a message. The ‘sad’ emoji is there to use when people have upsetting news to share, and ‘love’ is used for obvious reasons. There are occasions, though, when none of the existing choices feel right for any given situation. 

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Right now, people are dealing with more bad news more regularly than they may have done during their entire lives. Care workers are pulling overtime and working exhausting, traumatic shifts that leave them physically and mentally fatigued by the time they come home. When we see posts like that, our natural reaction is to send either the ‘sad’ or the ‘love’ emoji response, but neither is necessarily a good choice. A sad reaction might not be appropriate for someone who’s spent their whole day doing vital work. A ‘love’ reaction isn’t the right tone for someone that’s just had bad news. You don’t love the fact that they’ve bad news – you love the person. The emoji doesn’t allow you to distinguish the difference between the two meanings. 

Into this void, Facebook has launched a brand new emoji response. The new emoji is a purple heart, and it’s used to symbolize the idea of caring. Facebook Messenger users will see the purple heart option available as a response to posts made there, whereas on the general Facebook site, the same emotion is represented by a smiling yellow face-hugging a heart. It’s a simple way of letting someone know you care about how they’re feeling or what they’re going through without having to say a single word. The new emoji was signed off by Facebook last week and should start appearing on the service before the end of April. 

This is the first time Facebook has added to its list of emotional responses since 2015 when the additional options to ‘like’ were added to the platform. There hadn’t been widespread demand for a ‘care’ button before it was announced, although the response of Facebook users to the news thus far appears to have been positive. The one reaction that Facebook users have been asking for en masse for years – a specific ‘dislike’ button – still isn’t available, and Mark Zuckerberg has in the past stated his personal opposition to such a button being created as he doesn’t like the idea of Facebook becoming a place for negative expression. 

After a few years of bad press and no new innovations, Facebook has been a hive of innovation in recent years. It’s already making money through its official Facebook casino – a social-media specific alternative to online slots websites that already has over one million users. It offers the same basic service as an online slots website – by which we mean that it hosts many slots casino UK in the same space – but allows the games to be played without leaving the Facebook website. Aside from online slots, the company has also attempted to rival YouTube with the introduction of Facebook Watch and, more recently, has come up with a Facebook-specific alternative to Pinterest. 

Clicking an emoji isn’t the same as writing a detailed, thoughtful response to a friend or loved one who’s in a difficult situation, but not everybody is adept with words, and not everybody knows the best thing to say to somebody who’s struggling. That’s why this new feature is important. Sending a ‘care’ emotion is better than doing nothing, and it’s a small way in which we can show people that we’re there, and we’re listening from a distance. We should all be thankful for small kindnesses at the moment, and so we welcome Facebook’s decision to let us show each other we care online. 

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