The workplace messaging platform Slack has prided itself on sassy design — a cute logo that animate into a bursts of colours as it loads, a screen that reshuffles like a deck of cards when you change teams. Fine. But now Slack is outdoing itself and emojifying the crap out of its chat interface.
We don’t need this.
Find the first red flag right in the title of the blog post describing Slack’s new ‘Emoji reaction’ feature: “722 new ways to say ‘I got your message.'” 722? Really? Why do I need 722 ways to say ‘ok’, ‘yea’, or ‘cool’? Typing those universal phrases to my coworkers has been working out just fine erstwhile.
But, OK, let’s entertain the idea that, as Slack explains, its users have long been pining for a new way to ‘like’ messages. You can already star an important message in Slack, but that isn’t publicly visible or intended for communal use. A Facebook-esque ‘Like’ feature would have been the obvious solution, but when you’re the edgiest workspace messaging platform on the Internet, solemn needs call for real innovation. You know, like turds.
Enter the ‘Emoji reaction,’ a feature that allows you to ‘tag’ any message with a cute digital icon of your choice. If your fellow Slackers agree with your use of the hamburger emoji on somebody’s ‘brb lunch’ status, they can click on your emoji to add their vote of support. Or they can add a turd, a high-five, a tango-dancer, or whatever other pictorial representation of their thoughts ‘brb lunch’ might inspire.
Basically, we can now draw pictures all over each others’ messages, instead of letting our cluttersome linguistic reactions pile up in the chat.
Is this necessary?
At first glance, the space-saving aspect of this idea sounds kinda interesting. Maybe somebody just announced a promotion, and instead of everybody flooding the chat with congratulatory text messages, we’ll all just calmly and tastefully select the thumbs-up emoji. Or maybe, as Slack suggests, we’ll all find ourselves needing to vote on what to name the office coffeemaker, and instead of blurting out our ideas (how improper!) we’ll save precious seconds by clicking on images that somehow represent them.
The problem is, this isn’t really reflective of how people actually communicate. Language evolved for a reason — we can express lots of nuance and individuality with it. Maybe you’d rather congratulate your co-worker’s promotion with an inside-joke, a private message, or, I dunno, by saying her name, rather than slapping a relatively meaningless yellow thumb on the major life update.
While Slack insists that “With reactions, you can express your joy with an ever-increasing number of emoji in a tidy way,” it’s possible that everyone’s joy won’t quite come through in a tidy little string of animals.
And sorry, but I just don’t buy the sales pitch that this is going to be any more efficient than typing. After spending 30 seconds scanning for the perfect reaction emoji to encapsulate my feelings about Slack’s hot new feature, I realised that two simple words would have sufficed: time suck.
A like button is one thing, but if 722 ways to ‘like’ your sandwich is the future of the modern workplace, help us.