Smiley face? Facebook adds emoticons to status updates

Steven Loeb · April 10, 2013 · Short URL:

Action icons also added, including eating, reading, watching, and drinking

Facebook asks me what's on my mind every single day. But, because that is such a broad question, and one that I barely even know how to answer, I basically ignore it. Besides, does Facebook really care what I'm thinking about? Probably not.

What the site does care about, though, is how I am feeling and what I am doing. That is Facebook's bread and butter; it is the way it sells advertising and was even the basis of one of the company's most ambitious features. Facebook needs that information to thrive.

So count me unsurprised that Facebook would devise a way to make it easier understand me, what I want and what I need. It has done this by adding some new features to the status update, including emoticons and actions. 

"Starting this week, people can express what they're watching, reading, listening to, eating, drinking or how they're feeling in status updates," Facebook wrote in a blogpost Wednesday.

Here is the example that Facebook gives: let's say that you go see Jurassic Park in 3D, like I did this past weekend (man, that movie holds up so much better than like 95% of the stuff that comes out now). You can click on the movie icon in the status update nox, and then link to Jurassic Park's official Facebook page.

And voilà: all your friends know you are watching Jurassic Park, they can easily get to the page themselves to go and like it, and Facebook just got a brand new piece of information about you! Everyone wins!

But here is the catch: Jurassic Park will then be "added to the Movies section on your timeline." So, even though you may not like the movie you are watching, simply by telling people you are watching it, it is getting added to your profile for all to see. This will also happen with TV shows you watch and books you read. 

The fact that they will be automatically adding these pages to their timelines will probably not be readily clear to all of those who do this. But Facebook tries to get around it by sating "These updates, and the stories added to your timeline, respect the privacy settings you choose for your post."

Other options that are being made available include "reading," "listening to," "drinking," "eating," and "feeling," which comes complete with a set of emoticons, just in case your friends don't know what happiness and sadness look like.

Essentially what this feature does is make it that much easier for Facebook to get a handle on your information.

Let's say you type the word "hamburgers" into your status update. Of course Facebook can detect that language and send you an ad for a local burger joint. But if you use Facebook's pre-approved icon and prompt, then Facebook will be able to automatically detect which icon you used. It can see exactly what you're doing without having to do any work. This feature will ultimately serve to speed up Facebook's ad delivery system.

While some see this as a "fiendish plot" to violate your privacy, but I simply don't see it this way. Everyone knows at this point that anything you do or say can and will be used as an advertisement on Facebook. The question is: do you want to make it easier for them or not?

Facebook says it continue to roll this feature out to people in the U.S. in the coming weeks.

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