From climate change to the worsening refugee crisis to rollbacks of LGBTQ rights, you’ve probably reacted to a lot of deeply troubling news in your Facebook news feed this year.
But what if you could easily take your digital anger and sadness and turn it into real-world action?
A new tool called the Emoji Reaction Project helps you do just that. The clever Chrome extension transforms your negative Facebook emoji reactions into tangible ways to support good causes and fight injustice.
Every time you react with an angry or sad emoji on a post about a particular social or environmental issue, the browser extension prompts you with three options: “Donate,” “Do,” and “Dial.”
The “Donate” tab helps you donate to an impactful organization, vetted through charity watchdog Charity Navigator’s API to ensure your dollars will definitely make a difference. The “Do” tab compiles actions you can take, like attend nearby rallies and protests, and the “Dial” tab helps connect you with your local representatives to make your voice heard.
The Emoji Reaction Project is the personal side project of a group of employees at ad agency Droga5, who describe themselves as “average people who care an above-average amount.” The idea first came about after the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, when they saw thousands of people reacting to articles and posts on Facebook about the tragedy. They wanted to create an easy way to empower people to turn those kinds of reactions into positive change — across a range of issues.
The extension currently supports 15 causes and policy issues, including racial justice, women’s rights, the environment, homelessness, gun control, natural disasters, and LGBTQ rights. Substance abuse and veterans’ issues will be added soon.
“The Emoji Reaction Project launched with the causes that feel most at-risk today.”
Mike Hejja, a senior interactive developer at Droga5, explained that the new extension scrapes the text a user writes in a given post, as well as any headlines or descriptions from links, for keywords that match these issues.
“Our server also regularly loads events from almost 1,000 Facebook event pages from around the country, and runs the same search algorithm on the event page,” Hejja said via email. “We then quickly return pre-categorized events straight from our database when a user reacts.”
For the “Do” tab, the extension also pulls from the Resistance Calendar, a site launched by filmmaker Michael Moore earlier this year through which anyone can add protests and other actions in response to President Donald Trump’s policies. When you add an event to the calendar, it feeds into the extension, too.
The “Dial” tab, meanwhile, takes information from a database of representatives’ numbers around the country, which the the Emoji Reaction Project’s creators put together themselves.
The extension works on any post, whether it’s from a media organization posting a news link or a friend posting a personal message. But the posts need to involve keywords matching the Emoji Reaction Project’s causes.
“So, if you’re sad about a post where your friend describes spilling soup on themselves, it won’t react,” said Dana Stalker, associate creative director at Droga5.
Stalker said the project has launched “with the causes that feel most at-risk today,” but it’s just the beginning.
“We realize there are a million more issues in need of support, and are working on how we can quickly update the extension to respond to the unfortunately constant onslaught of new things to be sad and angry about in the news,” she said.
“We’re constantly updating the extension to address timely topics and issues.”
And that includes updates within the topics themselves. For example, because one of the extension’s topics is women’s rights, it will likely pick up keywords in some posts about the outpouring of sexual harassment and assault allegations in Hollywood and other industries in the U.S.
Rachel Frederick, also an associate creative director at Droga5, said they will release an update for the extension soon to address the topic in more focused ways.
“We’re constantly updating the extension to address timely topics and issues,” Frederick said. “We realized that we needed to give special consideration to the variety of ways people talk about [the topic of sexual harassment] online.”
As the team continues to update the extension with new topics and functions, they hope the Emoji Reaction Project ultimately serves as a reminder: When news, oppression, and crises evoke strong emotions in us, we can actually do something about them. We’re not helpless and there’s no excuse for inaction.