Earlier this week during a Q&A session at Facebook’s Menlo Park HQ, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced work is underway on a ‘Dislike’ button, to sit alongside the 1.5 billion strong networks iconic ‘Like’ button.  A development which split opinion within social media users and commentators alike. 

Immediately after the news, networks were alight with comments and opinions on the ‘Dislike’ button. Many posted concerns that the new feature could have a negative impact on Facebook users, due to the fact it may encourage trolling. 

In defence of the button Zuckerberg commented, “People aren’t looking for the ability to downvote other people’s posts, what they really want is to express ‘empathy’… so I do think it is important to give people more options than just ‘Like’, as a quick way to emote and share what they are feeling on a post.”. 

Zuckerberg went on to add ‘We have an idea that we think we are ready to test soon, and depending on how that does we will roll it out more broadly.’ 

So what’s do we know about his ‘idea’ that allows users to empathise with others?

Back in 2013 at a hackathon Facebook was said to have developed an actual ‘sympathise’ button but then nothing was ever passed on to users.  We suspect this is because of concern that whatever the good intentions behind a sympathy button, when deployed users may find a way to use it negatively against paying advertisers. Or may upset users and they end up leaving the site altogether, again, affecting advertisers.

Whilst this may happen in some way, the upside for advertisers may be that the ‘Dislike’ button will unlock more extremely valuable information about users and their relationships with one another and with their brand. In simple terms you can’t get a true indicator of your brand position among different consumer sectors without some ability of users to offer an alternative to ‘Like’. This may explain Facebook’s interest, but also its dilemma. Does it really want to be a hot-bed of opinion, and how will they balance the potential upside with the possible backlash?

Personally it seems like they are adding a ‘Dislike’ button purely because it is the polar opposite of their current ‘Like’ button. Maybe they should solicit suggestions from their 1.5 billion users as we're not sure the user benefit is front and centre.  We can see it might be nice to send a ‘Hug’ or another more subtle form of sympathy, but even those suggestions we’re not overly keen on! 

Remember also you can express dislike to something by actually commenting on the post, and from an advertiser's perspective they can pick up on brand sentiment, but being able to simply ‘Dislike’ every post on Facebook just seems like opening a can of worms.  

Bottom line is its introducing risk and until it actually gets rolled out we don’t know how it’s going to perform, or evolve in popular culture like the ‘Like’ has, but whatever does actually happen we know it won’t please every single platforms user. However, if anyone can solve this problem our money is on Facebook so we’re intrigued to see how they solve the dilemma and what the name of their new button is. Here are some of our suggestions for a Facebook ‘empathy’ button:

  • Bad times mate.
  • Ah dude that sucks
  • *Insert inappropriate comment here*
  • *Older Facebook user accidentally comments on your status rather than your wall* 
  • I feel bad for you but I’ve not got enough data to make a comment
  • Life is a bottomless pit filled with despair.
  • <3

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