Like, Love, Wow: Psychology of the Facebook Reactions

Facebook has recently made a big step forward and opened the door to express our emotions with “Love it” or “Wow” besides the well-known “Like” button, which makes it possible to express our emotions in a better defined way using online social networking. In the followings let’s identify the psychology of the Facebook reactions.

However, LinkedIn is the place of online business life it is still worth to pay attention to this improvement.  Namely the new reactions are able to improve nothing less, but our Emotional Intelligence. As it is already written in numerous EQ models, recognition, regulation and expression of the emotions are part of the advanced emotional intelligence. Naturally, according to some psychologists other factors such as emotional influence, affecting others emotional state or empathy also play an important role in EQ. Still, most models are based on the effective recognition and correct expression of the emotions.

It is easily acceptable; that the Like button helps us to express our interest and gives us the positive feeling of “community” still it is not a sophisticated way to express our emotions. On the other hand the new Reactions (or rather called emoticons) allow us to make it clear for others what kind of a feeling do we have regarding the given incidence. As the first step, the webpage poses the question – What do I feel exactly? – which motivates us to be more self-aware.

Answering this question is the process of recognising our emotion since it requires not only the detection of others feelings but also detecting ourselves. Similarly to the results of researches regarding emotion recognition, we can choose between the basic emotions on Facebook. “Like” and “Love” are connected to the most easily recognisable “Happiness”, while “Wow” expresses “Surprise”. Even better, the developers of Facebook did not forget the negative emotions so you can also choose sadness and anger just like the positive ones.

(Although “Disgust” and “Fear” are also basic emotions based on Paul Eckman’s classical theory, these are currently not available on Facebook still we are closer to a balance, terminating the monocracy of positive emotions that lasted for decades.)

Concerning the chosen emoticons it is extremely important to express the same emotion in every culture in the world.

“Something that Mark pushed us really hard on, which was awesome, was making sure that the reactions we are using are very universally understood. It’s not just applicably available to one culture but really very much that this is made for the global community of Facebook.” – as Sammi Krug, the product manager of Facebook also said.


Earlier on the community pages we could get to know a non-realistic, exciting, “rose-coloured” world, where we used the “like” attribute for even the saddest stories and most of the shared stories were positive because the users wanted to share their happiness with others. Compared to this non-realistic picture many people saw themselves as unhappy, boring or unsuccessful. More researches have shown that after spending more time on Facebook people value their results and themselves less.  What Facebook shows us is very attractive, therefore the user’s self-expectations and reality (the real and ideal self) gets further and further from each other. This effect makes the less self-confident people even less confident while competitive people will chase more and more challenges. The negative emoticons however might end this tendency, giving a more realistic picture of the world. Besides, these emoticons send the message that negative emotions and failures are also part of everyday life, let’s start expressing them!

The earlier strategy of Facebook is a good metaphor for a colleague who avoids conflicts, shares a lot of information, takes sides and asks for your opinion, however he/she is not entirely honest because he/she lets only the positive side to be seen, does not express conflicting opinion, and gives no negative feedbacks. However if we are honest to ourselves we admit that repressing negative opinions will sooner or later cause more sadness, anger or dissatisfaction.

So the appearance of the new emoticons not only help us to express or emotions in a more precise way but also makes us a more conscious and self-aware person. To sum up, it improves emotional intelligence therefore making the communication realistic and more effective. Besides it draws our attention to the negative emotions, and gives opportunity to practice giving feedbacks in a virtual world. It seems that even the participants of an online community cannot hide themselves having poker face anymore. smiley

Kata Harsányi 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

GDPR consent

Privacy Policy

Share This