Twitter just made a big change to how people use its social network — but that could be problematic for the company and its users.
By eliminating “Favourites” and replacing them with “Hearts” — officially known as “Likes” now — Twitter is effectively running into the same problem Facebook is running away from.
Last month, Facebook supplemented its traditional “Like” button with a set of “emoji reactions”:
Facebook introduced these emoji reactions so people could express themselves in more than just two ways (liking or posting an entire comment).
Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of News Feed, told Bloomberg that commenting was considered too difficult of a task for most users, and there was no simple tool for people to express “the range of human emotion,” or understand how other people felt about their Facebook posts.
This is the exact problem Twitter is running into now.
Instead of offering a range of emotions and reactions to replace or supplement the “Favourite” — which served as a bookmarking tool for many users — these new “Hearts” imply a positive reaction, or endorsement, when that may not be the case.
Wired’s Joe Brown summed it up perfectly:
Seems to me that heart-liking gets Twitter into the same positivity trap as facebook — hard to acknowledge w/out agreeing.
— Joe Brown (@joemfbrown) November 3, 2015
Many Twitter users are taking issue with this change — even one Twitter employee expressed some scepticism about the move:
Here’s Twitter’s rationale for why it removed the ambiguous “Favourite” in favour of the positive “Heart,” according to its announcement Tuesday:
We are changing our star icon for favourites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favourite.
The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.
Twitter goes on to explain that Periscope and Vine — the company’s live-streaming app and six-second loop apps, respectively — use Hearts, and Twitter wants to make them “the common language for our global community.”
But there’s no reason Twitter could’ve added other emoji besides Hearts. Because right now, the only thing you can do is react positively to a tweet. Twitter indeed needs more positivity, given the amount of harassment reported on the platform, but the company probably should have considered the implications of replacing an ambiguous bookmarking tool with a universal symbol for love. Because now, it’s more difficult to use Twitter to acknowledge someone else’s tweets without implicitly agreeing with them.
We reached out to Twitter; the company declined further comment beyond what was in the company blog post.
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