Sunday March 05, 2017

Haha, Wow, Grrr... Go rando with Facebook reactions

Spin the wheel of Facebook emotional reactions!

Spin the wheel of Facebook emotional reactions! (Michelle Parise)

Listen 8:50

Back in February 2016, Facebook made a move that a lot of people were all smiley-face-heart-heart about.

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Go Rando!

They launched "Reactions" to offer, they said, "more ways to easily and quickly express how something you see in News Feed makes you feel."

And while Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry doesn't completely run the gamut of human emotion -- it does offer users more expressive options than just a simple Like.

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Self-portrait of artist Ben Grosser

But Ben Grosser doesn't share those feelings -- at least not with Facebook.

He's an artist and an Assistant Professor of New Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and he sees those Reactions as a kind of emotional surveillance.

That's why he created Go Rando to obfuscate feelings on Facebook by randomly choosing one of the reactions for you.

Go Rando is a browser extension that watches when you click on the "Like" button for any piece of content. The software intercepts that click and instead of placing a "Like," it randomly chooses one of the six reactions for you.

Users are still able to pick a reaction if they choose. "There certainly are going to be moments when it would be inappropriate to fully let the system choose an inappropriate reaction for a sensitive post," he notes.

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Go Rando encourages us to be mindful of the way we use social media. (Ben Grosser)

Ben hopes Go Rando and some of his other projects will encourage people to be mindful about the way they use social media platforms like Facebook.

He says it's important to remember that how you react to various social media posts is logged and analyzed, and becomes part of a big data pool. Those reactions are easily decontextualized.

For example, a caucasian citizen of the United States clicking "angry" on a political post might mean something entirely different than a person of colour from a foreign country also clicking "angry," he adds -- especially if that person is trying to emigrate there.