dislike button

Claire Bernish | ANTIMEDIA

After years of requests, Facebook is finally — finally— getting a ‘dislike’ button. Sort of.

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“I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years, and probably hundreds of people have asked about this. And today is a special day — because today is the day where I actually get to say that we’re working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it.” Said CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed at Tuesday’s town hall meeting.

Facebook users have long bemoaned the dilemma between ‘liking’ an upsetting post in order to acknowledge its importance — such as an article on a natural disaster or a friend’s status about a serious injury — and refraining from the ‘like’ button to avoid an emotional contradiction.

But an actual dislike option might create a Reddit-like environment of voting ‘for’ or ‘against’ a post — which, as Zuckerberg explained, doesn’t fit in with the dynamic the social media platform wishes to promote:

“It took us a while to get here because we didn’t want to just build a ‘dislike’ button — because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create. You don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment that was important to you in your day and then have someone downvote it. That isn’t what we’re here to build in the world.”

Making the ‘dislike’ option, itself, is a somewhat inappropriate alternative to inadequacies of the ‘like’ button.

So, in actuality, Facebook is developing what amounts to an ‘empathy’ button.

“Over the years of people asking for this, what we’ve come to understand is that people aren’t looking for an ability to downvote other people’s posts. What they really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment, right? And if you are sharing something that is sad, whether it’s something in current events like the refugee crisis that touches you or if a family member passed away, then it might feel uncomfortable to ‘like’ that post. But your friends and people want to be able to express that they understand and that they relate to you.”

And considering the need for unambiguous brevity that is translatable across a vast array of languages and cultures — this has not been a simple task.

“I do think it’s important to give people more options than just ‘like’ as a quick way to emote and share what they’re feeling on a post, so we’ve been working on this for a while. It’s surprisingly complicated to make an interaction that you want to be that simple.”

An alternative to ‘like’ isn’t far from becoming a reality.

“We have an idea that we think we’re going to be ready to test soon, and depending on how that does, we’ll roll it out more broadly.”


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