On a Facebook post saying someone’s cat died, clicking the ‘like’ button doesn’t seem appropriate. But soon now, users will be able to show their sympathies without having to write a comment.
Facebook users have been asking for an “I don’t like this” button for years, but until recently, the platform never wanted to indulge them, being concerned that bullies might abuse such a button. However, founder Mark Zuckerberg has changed his mind. “It’s important to give people more options that just ‘like’. Not every moment is a good moment,” he noted earlier this week during a Q&A session.
Internet expert Danny Mekić believes Facebook has more reasons to introduce a ‘dislike’ button. “The challenge that social media face is no longer to win over as many users as possible, but to get those users to spend more time on their platform. Introducing a button for posts about bad news enables Facebook to connect with a different kind of post, and a different kind of people. It’ll no longer be only for happy stories. Furthermore, introducing the ‘dislike’ button would give Facebook even more insight into what the users find interesting to read about. You can’t ‘like’ a photo of a drowned refugee child on the beach, but Facebook still wants to know if that’s a photo that gets a lot of attention.”
Mekić points out that the Dutch social media platform Hyves had a ‘respect’ button even before Facebook came up with their ‘like’ button. “It was a clever choice, because the word ‘respect’ can go both ways. You can use it for both positive and negative things. You can express ‘respect’ when someone writes they’ve had a baby, but also when someone writes that they’re in hospital after a road accident.”
The internet expert is curious about the graphical design of Facebook’s new ‘dislike’ button. “Facebook doesn’t want its users to abuse a button like that. It shouldn’t become a harassing button, it should be neutral.” Mekić himself would have looked for ways to make the existing ‘like’ button more neutral instead. “It’s already possible to indicate your feelings in a post you make. The ‘like’ button could automatically turn into a ‘dislike’ button when you indicate you’re sad because you’ve lost your cat. Another option could be to let the poster decide whether their post should have a ‘like’ or a ‘dislike’ button on it.”
For the time being, it’s anyone’s guess whether Facebook will opt for a new button or adapt its old one. “Facebook is an innovative company, so I’m sure they’ll come up with an innovative solution”, says Mekić. In case that’s a solution the users don’t like, at least they’ll be able to let everyone know.