A Thumbs Down to iMessage’s ‘Reactions’ Feature

React to this.
April 30, 2019
7 mins read

I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but before I knew it, “reactions” had completely taken over my iMessage conversations. Instead of replying to a text message, a “reaction” allows you to add a heart, thumbs up, thumbs down, laugh, exclamation point or question mark directly to a text someone sends you. While the feature is seemingly versatile, there are a few unspoken rules about how each reaction should be used.

1. Heart

You can use the heart reaction in two scenarios: to acknowledge good, heartwarming news, or to comfort sad, troubling news.

2. Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

The thumbs up reaction is a great way to confirm plans, such as a meeting times or destinations. In contrast, a thumbs down is used as a sarcastic “dislike” button, which should definitely exist on Facebook by now.

3. Exclamation Point

You can use the exclamation point to emphasize a text for one of two reasons: to agree with said text, or to remind someone of a question that they have not answered.

4. Question Mark

A question mark is great to — for lack of a better word — “question” a text that you don’t understand, or remind someone of a question that went unanswered, similar to the emphasize reaction.

5. Laugh

Well, I think you can probably figure this one out.

Over the past few years, the iMessage feature has been a helpful tool, especially in the context of group chats. For instance, when someone sends something funny in a group message, the laugh reaction allows you to express how you feel without filling the entire chat with “lols” and “hahas.”

In addition, the exclamation point is great when you need to remind someone of a text that they forgot to answer, without having to repeat the message all over again. While incredibly helpful at times, the iMessage feature does have a few downfalls that iPhone users might not realize. That is, until they really stop to think about it.

We live in a time where everyone just wants to get things done and get them done fast. So it’s not a surprise that something like the react feature was created to add a whole new level of convenience to our daily interactions. Why type out “Okay, great!” when you could just react with a thumbs up? The simplicity might be great at the moment, but does it have the ability to affect our communication in the long run? Hear me out.

No Sincerity

Picture this. My friend texts in our group chat that he’s just secured a great internship. Instead of congratulating him, we all just “heart” react to his message. Another friend texts that she is having a bad day. One friend replies and says that they are there if she needs anything, and the rest of us just “emphasize” react to the message, showing that we are also there for her, but without actually saying it.

This sort of interaction has been going on within my text messages since the feature was introduced. Because of this, I’ve been finding it increasingly more awkward to actually type out my own messages of gratitude or congratulations. I still do it, but I can’t help but feel like I’m being a little extra. But, I’m not, of course. This is how messages should be conveyed. Yet, the majority of my generation considers going out of their way to react to a text message to be a commendable feat.

No Goodbyes

Another issue I’ve noticed with reactions is their ability to completely halt a conversation. Rather than eliciting a response that could continue a conversation, reactions can simply end it there. If you think about it, there really is no reason to reply to a reaction. So while the convenience and simplicity of the feature is its main draw, it’s also its flaw.

The idea that social media and other modern technology creates awkwardness in real life interactions is something that has slowly built up over the past couple of years. What were birthdays like before you could just post an Instagram story about your best friend’s day? What were father’s and mother’s day like before you could scroll through everyone’s posts of childhood pictures with their parents? What was talking to someone you were interested in before they could leave you on “read?” Reactions on iMessage have managed to add themselves to this ever-growing list.

The Future of Reactions

Of course, the iMessage react feature is not evil. I’m not worried about the feature completely destroying all of our social abilities beyond basic daily interactions.  I actually think as a whole, it has made the lives of many Apple product users a little bit easier. That’s essentially the main goal of any piece of technology: to make the user’s life easier. However, this ease can often come with a price.

While I don’t think that iMessage reactions have a particularly critical impact on our social skills, I do think that future technology from Apple and other major players in the tech world will continue to evolve and replace even more tasks of our daily lives. That being said, just make sure you go out of your way to type out, or better yet, say in person “Congratulations” or “Happy Birthday!” I promise that your connections with the people you care about will only grow stronger. Now that’s a message I’d like to emphasize.

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