Laughing At You, Not With You: The Use Of Reaction Systems On Forums

Laughing At You, Not With You: The Use Of Reaction Systems On Forums

Reactions are a useful way for forum members to convey emotions on the forum. As such, providing members with a palette of reactions they can have to the content posted on a forum allows them to engage with each other in a more meaningful way. However, just because the option to use reactions exists does not mean that every reaction should be used on a forum. More specifically, reactions that can be used to convey negative emotions should, in my opinion, be avoided.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be going over the reaction system used on Xenforo forums and whether or not these reactions are positive, neutral, or negative.

The Pros & Cons Of Each Reaction

Positive Reactions

The “Like” Button

The like button is as straight-forward as it gets. There’s no way for this to be misinterpreted by forum members or even abused. As such, I don’t have much to say on it.

The “Love” Button

Similarly to the like button, the love button is used to convey a stronger positive reaction to a post. Forum members cannot use this reaction for ulterior motives, making it another reaction that can added alongside the like button.

Neutral Reactions

The “HaHa” Button

Initially, when this reaction was added to Black Hat World, the potential for it to be used as a sarcastic reaction was considered. Of course, with the forum being filled with business professionals rather than the average Facebook user, we presumed this would be less of an issue.

Thankfully, this presumption was correct; to this date, only a handful of members regularly use the reaction as a sarcastic response. To combat this, I’ve hypothesised that adding more weight to the haha reaction so that it provides a higher reaction score could discourage this behaviour, but I have yet to actually test this.

The “Wow” Button

This is one of those where the usage of the reaction by forum members depends entirely on the graphic. In the case of Xenforo, it looks very much like a surprised reaction rather than a sarcastic wow reaction. Because of this, it’s much more unlikely

The “Sad” Button

Some may find this reaction to be negative, but out of all the neutral reactions, this one is the least prone to abuse. It’s more likely to be used in cases where members will genuinely want to use a sad reaction on a post where the content evokes that reactions.

However, you could very well get the occasional person who uses the sad reaction, realises it doesn’t get the point across, and then comments in a thread saying, “I reacted sad to your post because it’s bad and you should feel bad, lol!1!1!!!!1”

Negative Reactions

The “Angry” Button

It should be quite obvious that angry reaction shouldn’t be used on the forum. Using Facebook as an example, the angry reaction is used equally in situations where a user finds something infuriating, but isn’t directing this at the posted; but yet is also used in situations where someone is upset at the poster. Going back to Black Hat World, this is more likely to be used by sellers to angrily react to their competitor’s sales threads or even their general posts.


These Xenforo reactions tend to fall into three groups: a positive group that cannot be misconstrued (like and love). a neutral group where the potential for abuse exists (wow, sad, and haha), and a negative group that should be avoided at all costs (angry). That’s why, when adding a reactions system to a forum, it’s important to consider every conceivable way a reaction can be used to convey a negative response.