I cannot lie; I have skimmed Facebook and wished I could dislike a post. There are only so many baby pictures and clickbait advertorials that I can deal with before I am thinking, please just go away, I don’t care!
What sounds the worst out of that previous sentence? We might not care about disliking a new mascara, but having the action to say ‘I don’t really care about your baby’ sounds very harsh when you write it out rather than having the option to press an icon. While I don’t think that will happen very often, having a dislike button opens up new ways that Facebook can appear as a hostile place. In 2014, 7 out of 10 young people experienced cyberbullying with Facebook being twice as likely to be the platform that they experienced the issue.
This is a disturbing thought and highlights why Facebook probably shouldn’t implement a dislike button, at least on personal pages. When compared to other social media platforms, Facebook is often the most personal social media page that a person can create. Relationships are shown and flaunted, birthdays highlighted and the population of a person’s friends often spanning generations of friends and family. The dislike button could very easily turn into a troll button as recent ex-partners dislike any pictures of the person in question with someone else, children could dislike their parent’s status and visa versa resulting in off Facebook discussions about a silly button press that might have been hit in vain. It can easily get very personal because we may not be attacking just the action but also the person behind.
That cake you baked and were proud of? DISLIKE. (Reason: Why do you keep putting your baking up? I’m sick of you in my timeline)
You just got a new job! DISLIKE (Reason: Sorry, I did it for the lols)
Your Grandma just died. DISLIKE (Reason: I am sorry for your loss)
Wait, that last one makes sense, why would you like a sad status? This is the reason Facebook suggests for implementing the new dislike button. However, to be honest, what is wrong with words? We as a technology savvy generation has become too comfortable expressing ourselves through one button actions, that often mean far less than words. Emojis have helped us when we can’t think of what to say, but want or need to say something. Disliking to show empathy seems wrong, it seems too sterile an emotion and too harsh of an image. As Facebook citizens, we have got around that awkward ‘like for a bad post’ by saying in the comments that our like was to show support or not liking at all and leaving a message.
So why else would there be a dislike button if empathy appears a flimsy excuse for its implementation. More than likely it is for business pages, providing a new metric for social media analysts to monitor. I’ll admit, it will be good to specifically know what potential new consumers do not like. At the moment this took from a mix of indicators including likes, reach and overall engagement, but we can only assume that because someone hasn’t engaged in a post that it hasn’t tickled their pickle, so to say. What is worrying is that Facebook could very easily restrict reach based on dislikes. For example, if a page receives a high volume of dislikes on one post, the future reach is reduced beyond it’s already tragic amount for non-paying advertisement pages.
That seems sensible in a way, it encourages those involved in social media to create quality work; but consumers are fickle and something like a punishment to dislike metrics could be easily misused by rival business. Facebook are unlikely to act on this as it means more money can be placed into paid advertising. This would be tragic news for small businesses who cannot afford a regular budget for Facebook advertising. It would also be terrible news for fan pages who would not only be affected by the restricted reach, but also the cyberbullying side of personal pages. I unfortunately know too many people who have closed pages that showcased their art or music because ‘trolls’ had decided to bully them off the internet. Facebook and page owners are constantly trying to work around the issue, providing support networks and reporting features. Yet at the end of the day, it will happen and a dislike button just makes the process more mindless.
The dislike button is the quintessential example of ‘good in theory, bad in practice’. Social media etiquette is still being developed as more platforms are developed and as we spend more time online. Being behind a screen makes many of us braver and do things we never would in real life, therefore can we trust other people to behave how we do? Certainly not and as new generations of netizens experience their teenage years online let’s minimise the way that mindless cruelty can be expressed on the internet.