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Facebook Isn't Getting a Dislike Button, and That's a Good Thing

It's always an interesting challenge when a piece of social media news gains so much momentum that it actually sweeps the global news on almost all fronts. So it has been today as news has broken that Facebook are working on a 'Dislike Button'. The thing about this news is that it's being massively oversimplified and even taken out of context. In the broad strokes Mark Zuckerberg did say that they are indeed approaching the testing phase for a dislike button, but it's nowhere near that simple.

The news is drawn from a wider statement Zuckerberg gave in an answer to a question during public Q&A. You can watch his full answer in the video below, but to summarise, what Facebook are actually going to be testing is an option which allows users to register empathy with posts that might not necessarily be positive. Have you ever seen a Facebook post which you wanted to show solidarity with, but couldn't think of anything to say? Liking a post like that feels uncomfortable, as if you're supporting the bad news, rather than the person, this is what this new feature will account for.

Regardless of this, news outlets are all leading with 'Facebook are bringing in a dislike button'. It's pretty typical behaviour, and a lot of people are going to irritated when they find out that it's not what they thought. They deserve to be irritated, if you ask me, because the dislike button is and always will be a flawed, insipid concept which would be utterly unwelcome on Facebook.

One of the worst aspects of social media is the way that everything and anything seems to be laboured with a rating system. Everything anyone says on Reddit or YouTube or wherever gets either a positive or a negative score and the notion that you can't just talk, you need to talk for points is threatening to ruin social interaction and fan the flames of the troll inferno.

Imagine if Facebook added a downvote option, every elated post about passing a driving test or getting a new job would have its wings clipped by a storm of attention-craving dirt-bags hammering the dislike button like it's their job. Silent upvoting is already a nasty enough phenomenon in and of itself but adding a negative spin to it would just make things a thousand times worse.

How exactly will this 'sympathy button' actually work, though? I'm not certain that a button that just says 'sorry' or 'feels' will really be workable, it would probably be better to replace the liking system with something that's emblematic of support. I'm not sure how you would represent that visually, but I'm sure the Facebook crew have figured something out. Having one system which applies to all comments, updates, shares, images and everything else besides never made a whole lot of sense anyway.

The propensity to steer clear of a definitive rating system is one of the things I've always liked about Facebook. Social media shouldn't be another conduit for social hierarchy, no matter how hard people try to turn it into one. Things like cyber-bullying and trolling are always going to bubble to the surface on any platform but the people behind the platforms should at least take the responsibility not to unwittingly make it even easier. So ignore the headlines, but if you really want to spend all day disliking posts, stay on Reddit, or seek therapy.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Facebook Isn't Getting a Dislike Button, and That's a Good Thing Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 Rating: 5

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