Facebook finally lets us say ‘No’9/30/2015
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Children across the country are told this every day when they say something hurtful. The problem is that this expression is also used when people say something negative. Criticism and negativity aren’t inherently evil. They are the building blocks of better art, music, research, politics, and sometimes they even improve parenting efforts. For this reason alone, Facebook needs a dislike button, and, thankfully, the site has been internally testing the feature for winter release.
Since Facebook unveiled the Like button in 2009, a sizeable amount of users have been asking for a dislike button. In fact, it has been the number one requested Facebook feature for six years running. Opponents of “dislike” point to the bottomless pit of negativity the Internet appears to be. Between snarky comments, trolling, flame wars and outright bigotry, do we really need to slap another coat of ugly on the Internet?
Yes. Yes we do. First, let’s look at the existing dislike substitutes. YouTube has had both a thumbs up and thumbs down since it first debuted. Reddit, a website synonymous with Internet awfulness, lives and dies with the democratizing fashion of up and down votes by users. Finally, Quora, the most high-minded social network, wouldn’t drive users to the most informed posts without it. So Facebook is most likely not going to melt down if it integrates its own dislike feature.
But what if dislike confuses public discourse? Everyone has come across that Facebook post that just doesn’t make any sense to “like.” Someone’s dog running away or his or her best friend’s mother being diagnosed with cancer. Not knowing what to say, most people click Like. Well, unless you’re pure evil, chances are you aren’t trying to say you like their dog running away or parent getting cancer. This is where a dislike button would clear up a lot.
So when are we likely to see the debut of the dislike button? Well, if you’re hoping for a straight-up “dislike,” you might never get it. The political wording from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is that Facebook is shipping something that will allow users to express sympathy and maybe not specifically disagreement. The trick is how will Facebook program a situational feature that only pops up when it senses something sad? I doubt Zuckerberg is looking forward to a firestorm of PR over an blitzkrieg of uncouth dislikes, i.e., not liking a pregnancy or a couple getting married. Dislikes mounting on these type of updates might make users vocally angry with Facebook for allowing such a feature in the first place.
Still, borrowing a phrase from MTV’s once-great, now-garbage “Real World”: “It’s time to need to stop being polite and start getting real.” The requisite age to have a Facebook profile is 13, which means we’re almost all adults. We’ve all blocked someone for his or her incessant Facebooking. No one wants to do this, or you wouldn’t be friends with him or her in the first place. However, cereal breakfast, baby, selfie, politics, kitten and obscenity posters need to be taken down a notch. Dislike could help with nearly all of these situations.
Until this point, the only way to express your displeasure is by blocking or commenting. Blocking is the nuclear option, and verbally expressing your displeasure can quickly start a feud. Dislike seems like the polite way of just saying “No.” If someone gets a handful of dislikes, hopefully they’ll take stock of why. I will express one word of caution: Do not click dislike on a friend’s baby pictures. That is a direct route to digital war with the Mommy Marine Corps. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.