Mark Zuckerberg has set the Internet and a good part of the real world buzzing with his public Q&A session. He said that one of the most requested and enquired about features was whether they would ever come up with a Facebook Dislike button. He had said, as far back as in December, that they were considering it, but carefully – the acknowledgment seemed to be that there were too many people too ready to pull people down for petty reasons. With great power comes great responsibility.
This time, he said he was happy to finally announce that it was definitely in the works: something was being worked on and there would soon be something along those lines on Facebook.
Except, most people stopped reading there and didn’t go on to listen to his whole speech. What Mark Zuckerberg meant wasn’t exactly a ‘Dislike’ button, as he made clear soon.
What is this ‘Dislike’ Button?
He never actually said that the button would be the polar opposite of the ‘Like’ Button. What Mark Zuckerberg said is that right now, people have the option to Like, Share or Comment. They don’t have the option of expressing empathy or to say ‘Oh no, that’s terrible, I really hope things get better for you!’
If somebody posts that their dog just died, you cannot exactly ‘Like’ it. All you can do is ignore it, in which case you seem like a bit of a jerk, or chime in with a very inadequate ‘Sorry, dude.’ But it’s not something you should ‘Dislike’, either. That would be horribly insensitive – what exactly would you be downvoting? That he loved the dog enough to be publicly sad about it? That he shared his sadness on Facebook? You see where this is going.
Now imagine a natural disaster with many victims. Every time there is, there will be people posting about in on Facebook. Posts range from shock to sadness to actual victims trying to find people to support efforts. This, too, isn’t something you can ‘Like’ without looking like a complete idiot. You can ‘Share’ it, but posts expressing sadness will be many. You can’t ‘Share’ them all. And for the love of all that’s holy, you cannot ‘Dislike’ it. You might be expressing disapproval for a very worthy and positive effort or thought.
It’s for situations like these that Facebook is developing a new button. We prefer to think of it as the ‘Empathy’ button until Facebook announces what it will be called.
No Downvotes for Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg, in what might have been a dig at Reddit with its famous upvotes and downvotes, specifically mentioned that Facebook will not develop into the kind of forum with multiple upvote/downvote battles. Imagine how the whole selfie thing will go down if that happens – there will be a generation of young people with more self-esteem issues than there already are.
So if a post offends you, your option, even after this button is unveiled, will be to report and block it. You will not be able to express your disapproval publicly with the click of a button. You will, however, be able to empathise with somebody in a bad situation without sounding inane and inadequate.
We propose a new ‘Bad Times’ etiquette: press the button and drop a private message asking if there’s any way you can help.