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While it's by no means official, at a hackathon last week, a few Facebook employees developed a prototype replacement for the ubiquitous 'Like' button more suitable for status updates of the "bummer" variety.

From The Huffington Post:

During a Facebook hackathon held "a little while back," an engineer devised a "sympathize" button that would accompany gloomier status updates, according to Dan Muriello, a different Facebook engineer who described the hackathon experiment at a company event Thursday. If someone selected a negative emotion like "sad" or "depressed" from Facebook's fixed list of feelings, the "like" button would be relabeled "sympathize."

According to one developer at the company, the button isn't rolling out any time soon. Yet it's existence is an acknowledgement by the company that liking something does not quite represent the full spectrum of emotional reaction. A couple of years ago, Facebook began allowing articles to be 'recommended' instead of 'liked' if they contained depressing news.

But adding a 'sympathize' button just follows a larger trend of supplying a ready-made spectrum of emotional responses in order to save readers the time and effort of using words and sentences and syntax to give their opinion. Why tap out a comment when every article falls somewhere on the seven-stage BuzzFeed scale ranging from 'fail' to 'win'? The Huffington Post and YouTube tested a similar reaction system as well a while ago, and categorization of article not by subject but by feeling is becoming something of a trend.

At the end of the day, all these buttons do is signify that readers aren't sociopaths and can recognize basic social cues. Maybe we should just come up with a button that says "I understand feelings." Maybe we're just a few short ways from the simple, memetic 'Feels' button.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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