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iOS 17 Users Accidentally Set Off Awkward Fireworks During Therapy Sessions

Online therapy sessions are becoming a cringe parade thanks to one particular iOS 17 feature that is not intended to do so, but here we are.

The new Apple operating system brings many enhancements to FaceTime, one of which is the option for 3D reactions that pop up when users do specific hand gestures. So far, so good – that’s part of the online communication’s evolution. However, in some particular scenarios and situations, the new FaceTime effects can mature into full-blown embarrassing moments – like in online therapy sessions.

These new features in iOS 17 (and macOS Sonoma) are triggered when users make gestures with their hands and fingers in front of the camera, such as thumbs up, thumbs down, or “hearts”. That’s when 3D emojis, balloons, confetti, and even fireworks pop up on the screen during a video call behind the user.

The Verge has the story of a user who triggered such unwanted fireworks in the FaceTime background during a therapy session when he did thumbs up with both hands while describing one of his traumas. He was asked a question and in response, he gave a thumbs up. That’s when the background exploded in colorful pyrotechnics.

Although iOS 17 is brand new, the problem has spread in no time, causing telehealth platforms to prompt a message at the start of the therapy sessions: a warning dialog. Although users can disable such reactions, they’re enabled by default – so many people have no idea about them in the first place.

Here’s how to turn off 3D reactions in video calls:

  • Start a video call (or open the FaceTime app)
  • Swipe from the top right corner of the screen to access Control Center
  • If you have an iPhone SE, swipe up from the bottom of the screen
  • Tap Video Effects
  • Turn off the Reactions option

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