By BRENNA GRITEMAN
Racial discord. Gun control. Natural disasters.
Log into Facebook and you’re likely to be struck by an overwhelming feeling of helplessness regarding the state of the world. You might even be possessed to use one of the social media platform’s newish emojis, like an angry or sad face, to convey your distaste.
For users who’ve downloaded a new Chrome extension, developed by a Findlay High School graduate and her team, that feeling of sadness, anger or helplessness can translate into real-world action.
Rachel Frederick, a 1998 grad and the daughter of Debbie and Ray Frederick, is part of the creative team that dreamed up and oversaw the development for the Emoji Reaction Project, a browser extension that turns Facebook reactions into action. Those who have installed the extension and respond to a social issue with the sad or angry face are then provided with a variety of ways — “donate,” “do” or “dial” — to respond locally.
For example, a sad-face response to a photo of a starving polar bear might link a user to a local climate change rally or a prompt to send a postcard to the Environmental Protection Agency. Another post might link a commenter to a donation opportunity for a vetted charity.
Frederick says the Emoji Reaction Project was first dreamed up following the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016, which left 49 people dead and more injured. The shooting came not long after Facebook had updated its post reactions from simply “liking” something to include a heart emoji, a sad face, an angry face, a “wow” face and a “haha” face.
“We saw people clicking the sad and the angry emojis and we thought, ‘Is there a way to harness that energy and that emotion that they’re feeling?'” Frederick says.
Developers took their time researching relevant, legitimate agencies — not just charities — and also learned they needed to differentiate between sad-face reactions to real social issues as opposed to, say, a sad-face in response to a picture of spilled coffee.
While a number of social issues are already programmed, Frederick says the next three the developers want to add are bullying, substance abuse and veterans’ issues.
Using analytics from the extension, she says “donate” has so far been the most common response among users.
Frederick is associate creative director at Droga5, a New York advertising agency. The Emoji Reaction Project is a side project of Droga5 and is supported by the agency.
The free extension does not work on cellphones and can be accessed at https://www.emojireactionproject.com/ or downloaded from the Chrome extension store.