The “like” button might just be one of the most easily recognisable functions on social media. According to Facebook‘s official figures, a whopping 4.5 billion “likes” are generated each day on the site itself.
At a recent Q&A session in Facebook’s headquarters in California, founder Mark Zuckerberg expressed the company’s desire to look into one of Facebook’s most requested features: the “dislike” function.
“There are more sentiments that people want to express than just positivity or that they like something,” said the 30-year-old, “A lot of times, people share things on Facebook that are sad moments of their life, or are tough cultural or social things, and often people tell us that they don’t feel comfortable pressing “like” because like isn’t the appropriate sentiment.”
“And I think giving people the power to do that in more ways with more emotions would be powerful.”
But Zuckerberg also expressed the need to find the right way to do it such that it does not demean people’s posts.
While we agree that the current “like” function has its limits, here’s why we are not so keen about a “dislike” function to be the cure-all to this problem.
Let’s face it: cyberbullying has long been an elephant in the room in the age of social media. We’ve heard about Elizabeth Velásquez’s claim to fame on YouTube for being the “World’s Ugliest Woman” or Tyler Clementi’s suicide after Twitter heard about his tryst with another man.
But cyberbullying continues each and every day, behind closed doors and tapping keyboards. And a “dislike” button wouldn’t help.
Not only will it be way easier to express and incite hate, an abuse of the dislike function might result in socially crippling consequences. In time, people might begin to question if putting themselves out there is worth a risk to even take at all.
Which brings me to my next point.
Taking the ‘social’ out of social media
When you are forced to question your popularity each time you decide to post on Facebook, what would you do? Well, we’ll probably reach a stage where we simply decide not to post anything.
And taking this to an extreme not too far away, the popular voices might become louder and louder on a platform which once boasts of giving a voice to everyone, while the regular, not-so-popular average Joe might be forced further and further into silence.
That one day he decides not to speak at all.
Paying for Facebook
Another concern expressed by many is that a “dislike” function would be an unpopular move for advertisers. “Facebook’s big concern is revenue,” said Paul Coggins, chief executive of advertising firm Adludio, in an interview with the BBC.
“They need to keep their advertisers happy. I would think it highly unlikely that they would come up with a button that says you can “dislike”.
Facebook makes most of its money through advertising. According to this Business Insider report, in the fiscal third quarter of 2014, Facebook reported $3.2 billion in total revenue, and out of this, a whopping $2.96 billion in ad revenue alone.
Advertisers and brands are the ones paying for our Facebook experience.
Should people be allowed to “dislike” advertising messages or brands, we might very well lose them. Lose them, and we might very well be paying to use Facebook out of our own pockets.
For these reasons among others, Facebook users will probably not be able to “dislike” posts anytime soon.
It is however still possible for Facebook to allow its users to express a broader range of emotions, without allowing for the possibility to demean people or posts.
We were thinking along the lines of local citizen journalism website STOMP. Scroll through STOMP for a bit and you’ll notice that instead of “like” buttons, a Mood Meter is in place for viewers to express a broader range of emotions in local and Internet lingo like “LOL”, “Shiok”, “OMG”, “Ewww!”.
A similar function can be implemented on Facebook to express a range of emotions, while keeping outright social disapproval at bay.
Another option would be to give publishers of Facebook content the freedom to enable the “dislike” function before each post.
In this way, content that invokes sympathy or a range of other emotions can be expressed, only in an instance by which the content producer deems appropriate.
Last but not least, an alternative is a polling function that other sites, including Vulcan Post, are looking into. Instead of “liking” a post per se, viewers can be asked a question to express their opinion on the matter.
For example, a question after a relevant Facebook post might be “Do you want to see a “dislike” button on Facebook?” Options can be customised from “like/dislike” to for example, “yes/no”. Any disapproval can then be directed at the issue itself, rather than the creator of the media content.
A wise man once said on MetaFilter “If you’re not paying for something, you are not the customer, you are the product.” We agree that there needs to be a channel where people can express more than just a “like”, but that the solution is not a “dislike” button.
Because even “products” have the right to speak.