Facebook Users May Soon Begin Sympathizing With Their Online Friends
December 9, 2013

Facebook Users May Soon Begin Sympathizing With Their Online Friends

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

For some Facebook posts, the "Like" button shows support, but doesn’t express the right tone for certain updates. At Facebook's Compassion Research Day, Facebook engineer Dan Muriello said the company is considering a "Sympathize" button, according to HuffPost.

The Sympathize button is the result of a recent Facebook hackathon. The company took notice, as such a button might be more fitting for some of the social network's downbeat posts. The new button might not show up immediately, as it is still under consideration.

Facebook might not make the button always available. If deployed as Muriello described, the Like button will be relabeled as Sympathize if someone posts a message labeled with a negative emotion such as "sad" or "depressed." It remains undetermined whether the button will make it into the News Stream.

"Playing around with a 'sympathize' button at a hackathon -- a chance for staffers to brainstorm new ideas for site features -- hardly guarantees it'll pop up in feeds soon. The social network relies on its hackathons to explore out-of-the-box ideas, many of which never materialize," Bianca Bosker from the Huffington Post writes.

Muriello himself did not pitch the Sympathize button at the hackathon. He explained a colleague put the idea out there and it received a warm reception. That doesn't mean it will happen.

"It would be, 'five people 'sympathize' with this,' instead of 'five people 'like' this,'" Muriello was quoted as saying by HuffPost. "Which of course a lot of people were -- and still are -- very excited about. But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product. Yet."

Facebook's Compassion Research Day is a public event where researchers from Facebook, Yale University and the University of California, Berkley share findings from studies on human behavior on Facebook.

While hackathons take place in person within Facebook, the outcome of such sessions remains relevant for the Compassion Research Day. A Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost about the importance of company hackathons. The spokesperson called hackathons "the foundation for great innovations and thinking about how we can better serve people around the world.

"Some of our best ideas come from hackathons, and the many ideas that don't get pursued often help us think differently about how we can improve our service," the Facebook spokesperson said.

Hackathons are responsible for a number of Facebook features such as Facebook Chat, friend suggester and Timeline profile pages, HuffPost reports.

The intuitive triggers Facebook's Muriello suggests, to replace the Like with Sympathize, only go so far. Posts don't always contain a mood tag, while still warranting a Sympathize response over a Like response. It's still a start in the effort to make responses on Facebook better fit the posts.

"It's going to get a little awkward if you 'like' a post about a breakup or a death in the family. But a sympathize button would enable users to quickly express a more appropriate sentiment on posts that share bad news," CNBC reports.