Mark Zuckerberg didn’t quite break the internet, but he may have broken some people’s hearts Tuesday. During a Q&A session at Facebook’s headquarters, Zuck said, “I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it….What [users] really want is the ability to express empathy,” Zuckerberg added. “Not every moment is a good moment.”
Previously, he has been adamant about not offering a “dislike” button alongside the “like” button, for fear of the negativity it could (and most likely would) invite. Is this truly something being given to the users because they (we) have asked for it? Or, is this new button going to be offered so Facebook can find out more information about it’s users?
It should come to no surprise to any user that Facebook is based on a series of algorithms that curate your News Feed. Each time you go to Facebook, the algorithm shows you top or “most recent” posts from your friends and brands you have liked, in order of what you’ve told the site you want to see most – what you “like” most. Posts that receive the most likes are shown higher up in your feed, because that is what the algorithm has determined will attract the most user engagement. What throws this off, is all the posts that express emotions you don’t want to necessarily be seen as “liking.” Think of the time your friend posted about something sad – you didn’t know what to comment, but you wanted that person to know you felt for them – wouldn’t some sort of empathy button have helped? Perhaps you didn’t even see that friends post, because the algorithm had already buried stories of that sort, from lack of likes.
This new button that for now, we seem to be calling the “dislike” button, would help you balance out those posts that would be odd to “like.” I imagine that what Zuckerberg and his team is working on isn’t a “bully” button, to hate on people, but will be a way to still interact with posts you don’t want to hide, but also don’t want to “like.” These sort of posts will still be viewable and come up high in your News Feed, and you won’t have friends coming to you weeks later inquiring why you didn’t mention anything about their father passing away.
Who does this help the most? Us? Facebook? This early on, I’m still a bit divided in my own thoughts. I think this will give us a chance to see more of what is important to us and our friends, at the same time giving Facebook the chance to keep us on their site longer, and find out more about our feelings, which leads to more ads and more dollars in Zuck and Facebook’s shareholders pockets.
What will this new button look like? A thumbs down would provide the yin to the yang of the thumbs up “like” button, but that doesn’t seem to be what Facebook wants to portray. Perhaps what would be more helpful would be a button that signals to the person that put up the post “I saw this,” or “I hear you.” In my eyes, that would be more of an empathy button, whereas a thumbs down button (and we do not yet know that is what this new button will be) gives off more of a judgmental feel.
However, will hitting “dislike” really show empathy? Or is it the lazy man’s response? Will it be more of a show, like “I want people to see that I don’t like this. But I can’t take the time to write out a true comment or express my feelings, so phew! I’ll just hit this button.” Liking something doesn’t actually equal engagement. Sorry, but it’s true. Actually engaging, sharing thoughts and feelings – that is what creates engagement, not the push of a button. Even the most perfectly placed emoji seems to create more engagement and has the ability to show more empathy than a “dislike” button push.
Honestly, I think it’s too early to start hating on this new button just yet. I don’t think Zuck would take the chance of alienating the 1 billion users by giving us all something that could offend and hurt people, or turn the site into a negative Reddit rabbit hole. We just don’t know what exactly is being created right now, and it seems too judgmental to fully express opinions on it without having all the information.