I know you feel it. The urge to check Facebook to see how many “likes” your latest post received is real. Someone may have left a kind comment or laughed at a recently shared meme. Facebook now offers another virtual solution to the contact we often crave: virtual hugs.
Times are undoubtedly tough for everyone. If you have been lucky enough to keep your job, you probably know someone who did not. Expressing emotion and care for others is challenging right now. We need to express emotion and feel comfort from others. Currently, the only way to do this is through virtual contact. We crave living in community and we find ourselves isolated. We are alone in our homes, reaching for connections mostly via social media.
We post thoughts on Facebook and see engagement that gives us an endorphin kick. It’s the personal connection we cannot currently experience through face-to-face contact.
We don’t have enough options for reacting. We use Facebook to communicate togetherness. We use it to celebrate exciting moments, and lament about our pain. When a friend grieves a job loss or loneliness, we want to communicate understanding. The sad emoji begs for more. It communicates empathy but not “I am here to comfort you.”
I have started using the hug reaction to express empathy. Pressing “like” communicates someone may have read your post—or maybe they just want to be supportive. A hug means more. Hugs show love, compassion, and the closeness in a relationship we yearn for.
Emojis and reactions have come a long way since 1982. (Here is a brief history from TIME to peruse when the first “emoticon” was used.) They give us a voice in our virtual connections to express the intention behind words. We no longer need to leave the reader to potentially wrongfully interpret our meaning.
Tone is paramount in discussions. We have all misinterpreted the tone behind the written word. The new hug reaction arrives at precisely the right moment.
Tension surrounding coronavirus shows no sign of stopping. We are in uncharted waters. Could the new hug reaction help dispel disagreements and add a better tone to disagreement? Could it show we can disagree while being respectful and showing love?
It will be fascinating to see if a virtual hug could dispel some virtual anger when discussing controversy on social media.
There is one thing we can all agree on: We desire human contact. We crave acceptance. We need love.
May the virtual hug bring even the slightest bit of additional comfort as we wade through the disturbing waters of an epidemic. Thanks, Facebook for giving us the opportunity to show some virtual love. Haste the day they become real again.