Facebook Unleashes its Flower Power

Surprise, surprise! Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be yet another new implementation made by Facebook, we jest, this time in celebration of Mother’s Day, the Social Media giant unveiled a new reaction on top of the six it already has – a purple flower representing the feeling of “thankful”.

As the fixed series of reactions was just introduced in March, this additional reaction came as a surprise to many, especially without announcements made beforehand. The flower instantly stood out from the rest as it represents a feeling that cannot simply be expressed with the usual emoji. This, compounded with its time-limited availability, made the reaction extremely popular and resulted in a sense of loss amongst users when it was taken back:

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Which even culminated into a community that passionately spreads the hashtag #bringbacktheflower:

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Needless to say, Facebook has a grand scheme up its sleeves and it knows very clearly what it is doing. It capitalised on Mothers’ Day and rolled out the reaction exactly on the day of celebration itself, with only one accompanying statement after the hype formed on social media: “In honour of Mothers’ Day, we are testing the ability for people in a few markets to leave a flower reaction.” And period. After which, there was no explicit announcement as to which regions would have access to the flower and no follow-ups on development plans. Users can only hope to be lucky enough to have access to the button. One thing for sure, suspense creates hype. A lot of hype.

This update reminds us of an uncanny resemblance to the up-and-coming Snapchat and its all-time favourite feature – filters. Temporality ignites a sense of not wanting to miss out, and in a way, fuels addiction. Snapchat captivates users by having them check back frequently to see the filter of the day. With this familiar enactment that Facebook executed, one can assume that creating buzz through suspense is a strategy that it is using to pull users to use this function more widely.

And this calculated move is a wise one. According to Quintly, reactions are not favoured by users:

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Only 3% of Facebook users made use of the reaction function, with most using only the ‘like’ button on a more frequent basis. This strategy of occasionally releasing out-of-the-ordinary reactions can be predicted to work effectively, with the first temporary reaction proving to be an important evidence to progress in this direction. Moreover, we believe the results of this reaction will be an insight to understanding more clearly what users like to see and express on Facebook. Judging from how the ‘love’ button is the most popular reaction button from the fixed series and how the ‘thankful’ button was well-received, we believe that more feelings that are harder to express — i.e. more fun and interesting expressions — such as ‘nostalgic’ and ‘patriotic’ might be possible implementations in the near future.

On the other hand, there are also contrasting reviews. First and foremost, expressing love through a digital flower is definitely not the most genuine action one could make. As Time aptly summarised, “your mum probably won’t be impressed with a digital flower”. The use of expressing gratitude will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows especially for the older generation. Secondly, why restrict gratitude only to Mother’s Day?

Well, according to the Independent, the icons help Facebook assess the effectiveness of ads on your profile i.e. following your current moods and thoughts, Facebook can time ads and display the right content to you at the best time. Though this is an explanation that is not backed by solid evidence, it is a plausible theory for dispatching reactions – Facebook is a site for advertising after all.

Quoting Henry Ward Beecher, “gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul”. Nicely done, Facebook. Now that the bar has been set, we await together with the rest of the social media world and look forward to see what surprises will come our way in the future – perhaps on Fathers’ Day? On National Day? On Christmas day? We will just have to react accordingly.

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