They won’t call it “dislike”, but Facebook has finally taken note of repeated requests for a button that can come in handy when the thumbs-up sign does not fit. “People have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because I get to say we’re actually working on it,” said Mark Zuckerberg during a Q&A session at Facebook headquarters in California on Wednesday.
He was, however, quick to point out that the new button won’t be a straightforward negative “dislike” option. He said the button could be possibly used to express a wider range of emotions. He also said Facebook is “very close to shipping a test run” of the new button.
Facebook registers 4.5 billion ‘likes’ a day. In December 2014, Zuckerberg had indicated that a “hug” button was a contender. One Kalynn Towle had then commented on a townhall Q&A video suggesting, “Maybe they should get a “hug” button. That is a way to show support about sad or bad situations without being able for it to turn into a negative action.” To this, the Facebook CEO had replied, “Yeah, this is one of the options we’ve discussed.”
Now change is imminent. “We didn’t want to just build a dislike button. We don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts…Not every moment is a good moment. If you are sharing something that is sad, whether it is something in current events, like the refugee crisis that has touched you…family member passed away…then it may not feel comfortable to like that post but your friends and people want to express that they understand and relate to you. I do think it is important to give people more options than just ‘like’ as a quick way to emote and share what they’re feeling on a post,” said Zuckerberg on Wednesday.
Facebook user Sipho Buntu Giwu posted, “I think the dislike button should be optional to have, and…should be on the privacy settings so that it can be available for certain things, so no one can unlike something that is personal to you, like a picture of your family or girlfriend etc. It should be something to do with feedback rather than generating negativity. It should be aimed mostly on posts on public forums, and be reduced in private things.”
Introduced in 2009, the “like” button has been used not only to express approval or genuine liking, but also for acknowledging posts and replies, and to follow a post or a page. Detractors see it as a lazy way out of writing an articulate comment. Activism that rallies support on social media with “likes” to show for numbers has often been dismissed as “slacktivism”.
A common conundrum is the inappropriateness of “liking” obituaries. As a meme featuring a squinting Philip Fry from the animated sitcom Futurama sums it up, “Not sure if liking a sad Facebook status shows support or if it means I like their sadness.”
Currently, YouTube allows users to indicate displeasure with a thumbs-down sign. The interface on Reddit allows one to “upvote” or “downvote” a post, which marks it with “points” creating a ranking system.
Marketing professional Abhishek Asthana, a Twitter celebrity more popularly known as @GabbbarSingh, says a “dislike” button will anyway not sit well with the kind of network that Facebook is — one of personally familiar contacts. And then there is business. “Facebook thrives on advertisers and people liking their pages. A dislike button might not go down well with them. There is a reason why advertisers don’t go to networks like Reddit or 4Chan,” says Asthana. As for an “empathy” button, Asthana feels it will be a more politically correct response to tragic news such as a plane crash.