When You Want To Express Empathy, Skip The Emoji Facebook now sports "reactions" beyond the like button. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro says emojis are great for everyday communication, but they fall short of truly expressing empathy.
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When You Want To Express Empathy, Skip The Emoji

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When You Want To Express Empathy, Skip The Emoji

When You Want To Express Empathy, Skip The Emoji

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It's finally happened. Plain old like on Facebook has expanded. You can now express love with a heart, convey laughter, astonishment, sadness and anger with an array of expressive little faces. They're emojis, but Facebook has branded them reactions. According to an article in Forbes, Facebook said, we heard from people that they wanted more ways to express themselves on Facebook. In particular, they didn't have a way to express empathy. I have nothing against emojis. When I'm reporting from my base in Brazil, I've had entire wordless conversations on WhatsApp, the ubiquitous messaging app which Brazilians also happen to love. For making a date with friends, I choose martini glass, question mark. The response I get? Hand-clapping and then clock, question mark. And on and on it goes. Portuguese is a foreign language for me, so having all these emojis is really useful. I mean, everyone understands the emoji for getting a manicure, right?

Not everyone lives an emoji-obsessed lifestyle, though, so there have been a number of handy guides published after the Facebook announcement this week for the emoji-impaired among us. Most of it is common sense. The heart emoji is like with feeling. The angry face is for outrage. The wow is for most of the things your relatives post. But I'm just going to come out and say it; emojis aren't empathy. Is a sad face really the appropriate response to a breakup? A post about a death in the family?

One of the things the previous lack of options on Facebook forced was actual communication with words that you write. You can be clear about what you mean. But already, I've seen a confusing array of reactions to posts. Why did five people love the cat video but one person make an angry face? If everyone loves something, is it rude to just like it? And how will these new emojis be interpreted by bosses with their strict social media rules? Does empathy equal endorsement? Wondering about that has ended up occupying a lot of my time this week. So please, if you follow me on Facebook, send me a note, like my post, but save your empathy and your emojis for someone else.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT")

GO FISH: (Singing) Tell everybody why you're feeling happy.

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