So called Facebook “dislike” button will be for kindness, not meanness

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking at a 'town hall' meeting

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking at a ‘town hall’ meeting

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by Larry Magid

Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t confided in me any details about the company’s plans to launch what is being called the “dislike button,” but I’m pretty sure it will be used to convey empathy and support, not mean comments.

Zuckerberg pretty much said that at a Town Hall meeting at Facebook where he proclaimed “We didn’t just want to build a dislike button,” adding we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment and if you’re sharing something sad…then it may not feel comfortable to like that post but your friends want to express that they understand and that they relate to you.” He called the task of creating such a button “surprisingly complicated to make an interaction that you want to be that simple.”

I fully agree. There have been numerous times that I’ve seen posts about bad things — the death of a loved one or news of a tragic event. I might not have wanted to write a comment but I did want to say something like “I hear you” or “I feel for you” or just “I care about what you are saying.” But, because those options don’t exist, I’ve defaulted to the “like” button or — worse — didn’t respond at all. Of course I don’t “like” someone else’s bad news, but what I’m really saying, I guess, is that I like the fact that you are sharing this and wish you the best.

There are better ways to say this and I think Facebook is in as good a position as anyone to come up with some alternatives.

Positive interactions

As a longtime Facebook watcher and safety advisor (I’m on the company’s Safety Advisory Board and Facebook contributes to, the nonprofit Internet safety organization where I serve as CEO), I know how hard Facebook works to promote positive interactions among its users. It doesn’t ban negative comments — there is a line between trying to maintain a cordial online community and interfering with people’s speech rights — but it does have policies against bullying and harassment. Mostly though, the company tries to enable people to express themselves in ways that are not only kind but also impactful.