I can imagine very few situations in which a simple button press can carry so much weight. It's likely the most simple of the mechanisms of social media, yet Likes can alter relationships, self esteem, and how others perceive you. Recently, Facebook and Twitter have made changes to they way users "Like" posts in an effort to improve the experience. Has it worked? Before we can make that call, it's important to note the two major reasons users press the "Like" button.
The first is to show recognition. True across all social media platforms, Likes are a way of saying, "I've seen this post, and I cared enough to press that button." Whether it means, "I agree", "My condolences", "I literally like that", etc., Likes, at the very least, tell other users that you've seen this content and have an opinion on it.
The second reason we Like something applies more so to Twitter. Favorites - as they used to be called - appear on a list that can be accessed through your profile. So, if you don't have time to read an article or open a link, you can star (heart) it and save it for it later.
I see the introduction of hearts a bit differently. While I agree that pressing a heart button thereby Liking an article about a terrorist attack is awkward, it's a minor discomfort similar to Liking a friend's tragic post on Facebook. We've seen hearts used in the same way on sites like Pinterest and WeHeartIt, and it doesn't carry that much weight. (In fact, on Pinterest, I typically heart things I don't like enough to pin on my boards.)
It's unclear why Twitter engagement has increased with the introduction of hearts. Perhaps, this minor cosmetic change has simply made users more mindful of the feature prompting an increase in its use. For me, I took Favorites more seriously - after all, we like many things that aren't our favorites, right? Now that I'm simply Liking a tweet, I do so more frequently.
What do you think? Do you like the new Facebook Reactions? Do you prefer a Star/Favorite or a Heart/Like?