What I meant to be a wee post while sharing the link turned too long for a Facebook post than I like. Hence, blog post. (Also a convenient tl;dr at the bottom since this became more wordy than I expected.)
While not dismissing or belittling the vast pros of social media or the possible benefits of having a dislike button to show empathy or appropriate/relevant negative emotions discussed in the NYT article linked above, I’m not sure if this new ‘dislike’ button is so necessary. Yeah, it’s the counterpart to the current ‘like’ button. Completes the dichotomy blablabla. I’m sure there were many reasons to go forward with this idea. But does it really have to be a ‘dislike’ button?
I love that Facebook is thinking about more ways to respond to posts. There were many times when I felt sorry and, for a lack of a better word, bad for ‘liking’ a RIP post or upsetting news to show my support or interest in the posted content. “I don’t actually ‘like’ how your dog passed away. Just showing some support. Hang in there, man.” We’ve all seen it. And we’ve all been there.
I feel like the ‘dislike‘ button is not the solution. Now, why do I think this? Well.
My concern is that there are insecure, angsty people that already have enough why-isn’t-my-life-like-theirs thoughts from being on social media. (And I’m sure no one would contest the almost ‘necessity’ to participate in some sort of social media in today’s society to stay connected/relevant etc.) I think it would be a fair assumption to think that a big portion of the aforementioned group is impressionable, vulnerable kids – teenagers. I’m not sure if they need disapproval (vis-à-vis the new dislike button) to further gnaw at their self-esteem.. (Recent relevant Digital Trends article on teenage social media overuse) Although.. if this dislike button somehow makes people use Facebook less, I guess it would be solving the problem discussed in the DT article /sarcasm. Seems exactly like the opposite of what Facebook would want though.
So then what? What do I want?
Don’t phrase it as ‘dislike’; don’t frame it that way. It just seems like the word ‘dislike’ has so many ways to be hurtful and abused. (And for people who say to accept the ‘dislike’ and just ‘grow up’, Facebook is not an adult-only place. Tons of kids are on here. With cyberbullying still a huge, unresolved problem, those kids should not be expected to just accept the hate and grow up.) Perhaps make an option for the post writer to allow different emotions (e.g. I can write a post and allow people to either ‘like’, ’empathize’, or ‘be angry’ at the post.) And perhaps if these emotions are not what the audience feels, they can have the option of commenting with words like now (and this would be liked if people agree with them) or to comment with an emotion denoted by those emojis we can use to write statuses. Perhaps not the most refined or feasible idea, but you get what I mean.
Obviously I’m not a developer or a social scientist and I don’t claim to know enough about the effects of social media on today’s society to completely dismiss Facebook’s idea. However, even without the expertise, I think it’s quite easy to expect the negative effects and the possible misuse and abuse of this new dislike button. I’m sure tons of people had the same reaction I did to the news and I’m also sure tons of people are thinking or saying “What the f***” reading my opinion about it right now. And that’s fine. I believe that concurring and disagreeing thoughts are what makes progress. But at the same time, I don’t think we need a numerical value of disapproval in our faces everyday for every post we write on Facebook. Call me a cynic or a pessimist, but I believe – especially in regards to things affecting the masses – that things that can happen will happen. I might sound (too) dramatic while discussing this little update on Facebook – and I agree with that. But while I see the potential of this to be great for solving the problems ‘like’ not being the correct term for how you feel about certain posts, I also see this being a source of a potentially huge problem. And I think this problem is a big deal, worthy of a little over-reaction and drama.
I hope that my cynicism and pessimism are unwarranted, and even if we get the dislike button as is, we won’t see what I (along with many others I assume) expect. But I hope for a different word than ‘dislike’ more.
Tl;dr: Framing is important. This idea to let other emotions than ‘like’ as options for responding is great. But! Don’t frame it as something flatly and only negative as ‘dislike’ without giving options for types of negative emotions or an option to filter/choose to disable the ‘dislike’ button. My opinion is that implementing a simple dislike button will do harm that we definitely do not want.