Facebook users have requested a dislike button time and time again. There are even groups, demanding its creation. There has even been a Change.org petition, which claims the importance of being able to express negative opinions or emotions.
Until recently, Mark Zuckerberg had shot down any hopes of seeing its implementation. However, he recently spoke out about the possibility of seeing it in the future, admitting the idea could be in the pipeline – although perhaps not how we imagined it.
He openly states last Thursday that Facebook are ‘thinking about’ the idea, before elaborating by saying “We need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad.” He is likely referring to the common fear of the dislike button being used to offend users. What if you ‘disliked’ your friend’s photo and they were offended? As a result, it’s likely the button will not be called ‘dislike’ and instead will serve as a way to share sympathy or agreement with friends posting unhappy updates without coming across as cruel. Described as a ‘sympathise’ button, the concept was revealed during a Facebook ‘hackathon’, during which Facebook executives brainstormed upcoming ideas. In fact, the ‘like’ button began life as a hackathon notion, showing how the engineers put their thoughts into action.
The idea has attracted both praise and criticism amongst users. The term ‘Like Anxiety’ has been coined in recent times, referring to the feeling users experience when no one likes their status, photos or updates. The same anxiety could be applied to the sympathise button, which could prove to be hurtful to those in upsetting scenarios. How would they feel if no one sympathised with them in a time of need? Others have suggested the ability to simply click a button would be far less meaningful than a written message or traditional sympathy card or phone call, taking away from the supportive interaction.
Despite these potential flaws, the button has its positives. It fills the void for when ‘like’ isn’t appropriate Dan Muriello, an engineer at Facebook, said, “A lot of people were very excited. But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product. Yet.”
It’s likely that the sympathise button could be appearing in the future, once Facebook has decided on a system that’s both tactful and supportive.