First came the "poke" and the "like," and then ongoing (and as-yet unsuccessful) campaigns for an "unlike" feature. Now it's emerged that Facebook has considered introducing a "sympathize" alternative for those situations when other virtual gestures of compassion don't quite feel right.
The social network toyed with such a button because, well, clicking "like" on a post can sometimes look awkward — especially when that exuberant thumbs-up appears beneath a post memorializing a recently deceased grandparent, say. (Even if you meant to approve the tribute, rather than the death.)
According to The Huffington Post, citing a Facebook engineer, the online service has experimented with the "sympathize" button, intended for use when reacting to status updates about things like bereavements, breakups, being fired or losing a beloved pet.
Discussion about the new feature arose during a recent company "hackathon," during which developers are encouraged to brainstorm new ideas and innovations to improve the social networking site.
Dan Muriello, a Facebook engineer, described how the "sympathy" button might be used.
"It would be, 'five people sympathize with this,' instead of 'five people ‘like’ this,'" Muriello told Huffington Post. "Which of course a lot of people were — and still are — very excited about. But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product. Yet."
Facebook has over the years become a popular outlet for public grieving. Users can also submit a "memorialization request" to allow people to post condolences to the account of a deceased person.
Last month, online news site Quartz reported that an Israeli businessman was photographing gravestones for a "Facebook for dead people" called Neshama. The report said the entrepreneur had digitized 120,000 gravestones so that people could leave online notes of remembrance for lost loved ones.