April 17 (UPI) -- Facebook began rolling out a new emoji reaction Friday, allowing users to show they "care" in response to their friend's posts.
The emoji, which features a smiling face hugging a red heart, will be one of seven possible "like" reactions for Facebook posts. On Facebook Messenger, the new reaction will consist of a pulsing heart.
Facebook's iconic "thumbs up" like button was altered in 2015 to include five other options -- a heart, and laughing, "wow," sad and angry emoji faces. The new "care" reaction will be the first change to the like button since then.
Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, told USA Today the new heart-hugging emoji is meant to show caring and solidarity, particularly in the time of upheaval during the coronavirus pandemic. With the grief, anxiety, hardship and uncertainty surrounding the outbreak, the "care" emoji is "for when a regular heart does not feel like enough," he said.
"The idea of a hug reaction came back consistently as one of the emotions and feelings that we were missing from reactions," he added. "And with the crisis that we are going through right now, there is no doubt that people need more compassion, more support."
Facebook began unveiling the new care emoji on the Facebook Messenger app Friday and plans to start introducing it on the main website next week.
The new emoji option is one of several features Facebook has rolled out amid the pandemic. Earlier this week, the social media company began notifying users who have engaged with misinformation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and guiding them to factual data.
The company also launched the Faith on Facebook Resource Hub to connect churches and other religious organizations with communities seeking to worship without being able to physically attend religious services.