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How Facebook is Driving Digital Empathy During COVID-19

Humanity

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The New “Care” reactions and “Together at Home” sticker pack come at a time when people are turning to social platforms for compassion and support.

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As we continue to stay indoors and practice social distancing, social platforms including Facebook have seen a significant increase in usage across the globe. According to The Verge, total messaging on the platform has increased by 50 percent and video calling has doubled in some markets.

“Much of the increased traffic is happening on our messaging services, but we’ve also seen more people using our feed and stories products to get updates from their family and friends,” the company shared in a recent blog post.

Building off of these behaviors, the company is expanding its reactions package with a “Care” reaction featuring an emoji face hugging a heart for the native Facebook app, and a purple pulsing heart for Messenger. The latter will appear alongside the familiar “thumbs up,” the standard heart, and the laughing, shock, sadness, and anger emojis. You can see the new heart by pressing on an existing reaction to change it, or by creating a new reaction to a chat.

EXPANDED “CARE” REACTIONS

What began in testing late last month, the impetus behind these new reactions was simple: facilitating more ways to empathize and sympathize with one another. Helping people show their support is an important way to help normalize this challenging and uncertain situation, a critical element in dealing with the numerous emotions stemming from COVID-19.

“This idea of a hug reaction came back consistently as one of the emotions and feelings that were missing from Reactions, so that’s something that was always on our minds. And with the crisis that we’re going through right now, there’s no doubt that people need more compassion, more support.”

Here’s a visual of what the updates look like in action:

Aside from helping its users stay positive and productive in their relationships during this time, the platform is hopeful these new reactions will shed light into how people are using them, the value they attribute to them, and whether these types of reactions are most useful in the moment or more evergreen. Based on this information, the platform will make decisions around whether they remain live after COVID-19 and if subsequent reactions will take the same approach in response to future crises.

WHATSAPP & WHO STICKER PACKS

Designed to help people accurately reflect how they’re feeling and stay connected while complying with quarantine mandates, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is deepening its partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a sticker pack, called “Together At Home,” aimed to convey the moments and emotions that people are going through each day.

The stickers are currently offered to the platform’s 2 billion+ users in 10 languages including Arabic, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.

Shown above, the stickers are aimed to not only help you check in on friends and family but remind them to wash their hands, maintain proper distance, stay active, and celebrate the medical heroes on the front lines.

Beyond this update, the platform is currently testing group video and audio call with up to eight users, a 2x increase from the four the platform supports currently which would position it to compete with the likes of Houseparty and Zoom as people are eager to stay connected despite being apart.

Facebook has introduced a wide body of work throughout the pandemic such as providing grants to small businesses, supporting public health initiatives to get important messages out and combating misinformation through dedicated hubs and search capabilities allowing users to verify the accuracy of what they’re seeing. While these updates around reactions and stickers may seem minor in comparison, there’s no denying the significance of platforms being tuned into the kind of empathy the world needs at this moment.

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