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The Social Confusion behind the Facebook’s Dislike Button

StarHub Intern

So my Facebook Newsfeed was bombarded a few days ago with news of the upcoming Facebook’s “Dislike” button. What most users online do not understand is that Facebook isn’t coming up with the “Dislike” button, but an “Empathy” button to express empathy for victims of tragedies and other things that are unbefitting to “Like”.


As quoted from Mark Zuckerberg,


"You know, it took us awhile to get here. Because you know, we didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create. You don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment that’s important to you in your day and then have someone down vote it. That isn’t what we’re here to build in the world.


But over the years of people asking for this, what we’ve kind of come to understand is that people aren’t looking an ability to downvote other people’s posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy."


This severely misunderstood button is causing a buzz on the social platform, especially since a “Dislike” button has been a requested feature from many Facebook users for a long time. I can totally understand where these users who requested for the “Dislike” button are coming from. I have personally experienced incidents where I strongly disagree with a Facebook friend’s comment or opinion on Facebook, but at the same time, reluctant to rebut him or her openly on the platform in an effort to avoid potential conflicts with my Facebook friends. In such an incident, a “Dislike” button would have been sufficiently able to express my disapproval on the Facebook platform.


However, there are also downsides and an array of confusion that can result because of a “Dislike” button such as:


Not knowing what a user is actually liking or disliking.


Depending on the phrasing of the Facebook post posted by a publishing Facebook Page, there could be various interpretations by different people and it is all very confusing what the user is really liking or disliking.

One example would be the following status for a News related Facebook Page:


“Drowned Syrian Child Spurs Spike in Donations”


If a user dislikes this headline, is he or she disliking the tragic event of the “Drowned Syrian Child”, or disliking the spike in donations for the event?


“If Facebook built a Dislike button, it would just cause confusion. If I share a post about victims of a natural disaster, and you Dislike it, does that mean you Dislike that the tragedy happened? That you Dislike the victims? That you Dislike that I posted it? It’s extraordinarily ambiguous in a way that directly conflicts with how Facebook builds products. “-  Josh Constine, TechCrunch


Fearing more judgement than ever before.


It is never a good way to start off a day posting a harmless Facebook status that eventually gets “disliked” by a Facebook friend who happens to like or dislike you (whichever, you may never know).


Facebook will no longer be that positive space for friends to come together to keep up to date with one another’s lives, but will slowly become one that is negative and hate-filled.


Hence, this is why instead of a “Dislike” button, Mark Zuckerberg prudently decided that an “Empathy” button would prove to be more needed and pertinent for a positive Facebook community.


 “People aren’t looking for an ability to downvote other people’s posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment, right? And if you are sharing something that is sad, whether it’s something in current events like the refugee crisis that touches you or if a family member passed away, then it might not feel comfortable to Like that post.” – Mark Zuckerberg


In other words, users want a feature to express more accurately their feelings about certain events and a “Dislike” button may not necessarily be the most appropriate or kind button for that.

I hereby applaud Facebook for sticking with its resolution to nurture a positive community because with the social network being perpetually filled with hate-filled trolls and keyboard warriors, implementing the “Dislike” will only complicate things further on the social network platform.



Figure 1 This Facebook status is completely fictional. It has been edited to act as a visual aid for what the Sorry button will look like in future.


And as we eagerly anticipate the Facebook’s upcoming “Sorry” button, we plead for internet trolls to retain the last remnants of their humanity. Only when internet trolls do stop, can the requested “Dislike” button come in, without interfering with the positivity of the Facebook community.

Currently an intern at StarHub. Some of my posts are unofficial and may contain personal opinions which may not represent the positions and opinions of StarHub