In this article, Ian Bogost discusses the introduction of email reactions and how they have evolved on the internet. As a user of dedicated email software (Thunderbird), I found it awkward when I first received a thumbs-up reply to an email. Although these reactions can be useful to indicate receipt of a message, I also agree with Bogost’s view that they can be futile and add work. Worse, it is often saddening when someone can’t respond more thoughtfully.

The arrival of reactions in our email, of all places, represents their final success and inevitable futility. Adding confetti to a Gmail conversation affirms that reactions underpin the internet—that online life has become reaction-driven in a deep sense. Much of what we make and share online is made or shared precisely in the hope of eliciting emoji. At this point, we’re so overrun with these attempts—with things to make us laugh or cry or throw confetti—that the very work of having a reaction may soon be obsolete.