“Today is a special day,” said Facebook tycoon Mark Zuckerberg during the latest Q&A session with his users. Facebook users have been asking for a dislike button for years; today, he could finally announce there’s going to be one. Or something like it, anyway. It remains unclear what this new button is going to look like, but they’ll soon begin testing it. Not every moment is a good moment, after all, Zuckerberg says. “If you are sharing something that is sad, it may not feel comfortable to ‘like’ that post.” But is this button a good idea?
It’s mainly an idea that would benefit Facebook itself, says internet expert Danny Mekić. It’s not at all that Zuckerberg cares all that much about what his users want. “They barely feel accountable to their users. Facebook is a remote island in Sillicon Valley. You can’t even reach them by phone. Have you ever seen a group of protesters in sleeping bags in front of their building?”
Non-happy news is okay too
This option will let Facebook make itself relevant again, says Mekić. We’ve been conditioned for years to post just fun things to our timelines — graduations, holidays, newborn babies. “If we had bad news, like if a pet died, we’d think: this isn’t really interesting enough to post about. That’s not going to get any likes.” But to all those users who walked out because of the constant happy talk, Facebook now sends the message that non-happy news is okay too. That should lead to more active users and therefore more posts. And that means more data for the advertisers.
Mekić won’t make any predictions about what the new button will look like. But it’s definitely not just going to be a thumbs-down next to the thumbs-up, he says. “That would make it a kind of bullying button, a rejection. Nobody likes to be rejected, least of all by your friends. So then people wouldn’t dare to post their news, and they’d stay away from Facebook. That’s not what the company wants.”