If Facebook added this new reaction button, happiness would reign
Like. Love. Haha. Wow. Sad. Angry.
On Facebook, these are the six emotions — or reactions — a human can have to all of human experience.
Does this feel limiting to anyone else? (Please express your view as one of the six pre-approved Facebook emotions.)
Would it help if Facebook added more reactions? It would. What about dislike, downvote, upvote? What about nope, fuck nope, up yours, suck it? Or I would unfriend you but you're my office mate, jealous, real jealous and so jealous I'm hiding you? With these reactions, a wider, truer picture of human emotions could emerge, and we'd all be happier.
But I'm not proposing Facebook add all those. What I'm proposing is a new "reaction" that Facebook truly, seriously needs to add, now, especially after this horrible election. This new button would not only change the culture of Facebook, but the whole Internet — and, then, the whole world:
Not like or wow.
Not love or angry.
I accept your vacation was cooler than mine. I accept that my ex-girlfriend has a new girlfriend. I accept that Hillary got more votes. I accept that Donald Trump is … gulp ... president.
It might seem stupid to click "accept." Isn't it just the same as saying nothing? It’s not. Hear me out:
Right now, the whole Internet is based on judgment. On Reddit, you upvote and downvote. On eBay and Lulu, you rate. On Tinder, you swipe left or right.
This constant judging has advantages. Good things rise, and bad things sink. You trust highly-rated Amazon vendors and five-star AirBnB hosts.
But there are at least two casualties: our individual mental health, and our Whole Freaking World.
First, individual mental health. Psychologists, philosophers, and religious leaders warn that constant judgment leads to constant unhappiness. "It's not external things that make you unhappy, but your judgment of them," Marcus Aurelius once said. "What disturbs your mind is not events but your judgements on events" wrote Epictetus, his teacher. "A day spent judging another — or yourself — is a painful day," said the Buddha.
To add problem on problem, we judge other people's judging on Facebook, hating people who "like" things we hate, instead of accepting that they're different people with different preferences.
"We get stuck our own likes and dislikes," writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, a modern mindfulness expert, which prevents us from "releasing into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding … which comes out of allowing things to be as they are, without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of liking and disliking."
Acceptance, on the other hand, leads to calm and centeredness.
"Acceptance of reality, of our feelings, and more generally of things beyond our direct control is important," Donald Robertson, an expert on both ancient wisdom and modern psychology, emailed me. "It's one of the keys to psychological well-being, for both the individual and society."
Think of the therapeutic potential of a new accept button, and how calming it would be to click time after time: Accept. Accept. Accept.
Second, in terms of the Whole Freaking World: an accept button would change the way we vote and follow politics.
The current system is corrupting our brains because, as we're presented news stories on Facebook, we "like" or "angry" them. Facebook reads your reactions and then crams your feed with stories you like, which build your existing worldview until it's indestructible, like mud added to the walls of a stucco building. And it hides stories that might shake your cozy certainty, the way you hide a Halloween mask from a crying infant. This has a viral toxicity — it gives us a real mental virus from the things that go viral — and it prevents us from seeing things as they are, and thereby mobilizing our true potential.
Constant liking and judging is the mindset of a 3-year-old. "I like pretty pictures!" "I like my mom!" "cold days make me sad!" The Internet is 30 years old; it's time it put away childish things.
Acceptance, the psychologists will tell you, doesn't mean resignation, or that you think everything is ok, or that anything anyone says is cool, or that you don't work to change things. But acceptance of base reality lets you be more balanced and effective in your life. It's not giving up. It's the first step toward change.
Mr. Zuckerberg says he’s into Buddhism. If that's true, he should know that the Buddha says acceptance is the only path to true, lasting happiness. Accept it. Accept things as they are. Accept an accept button. Please.