Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said that in the very near future, people will be able to express their empathy in a much better way by employing the use of a ‘Dislike’ button. Apparently, Facebook is really close to having it ready for user testing….

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Liking the Dislike since 2009

Having a ‘dislike’ option has been something Facebook users have been calling for since the introduction of the ubiquitous ‘like’button back in 2009.

Zuckerberg seems to be aware of the Pandora’s Box effect introducing a dislike button might have on the world’s largest social network. He stated that it was not the intention of Facebook to introduce a system that trolls, and could be used to vote down other people’s posts. Rather, Facebook want to introduce the button for times when clicking ‘like,’ isn’t an appropriate gesture.

How a ‘dislike’ button will achieve this is anyone’s guess. Signalling a dislike for something, traditionally, hasn’t been humans preferred method of displaying empathy with another human. No one ever went to a funeral and said, “I dislike that your Grandmother passed away.” Now, while admittedly this is still a better option than ‘liking’ something, it’s not great is it?

“Not every moment is a good moment,” Zuckerberg said, in what was surely one of the most unintentionally ironic moments of recent times, as he handled a Q&A session detailing the upcoming release.

For years, Zuckerberg and Facebook, have dismissed the calls for a ‘dislike’ button, in an attempt to avoid user driven voting systems, such as are exhibited on other sites like Reddit. It was only last December Zuckerberg went on the record again to declare there would be no dislike button for Facebook, saying “There’s something that’s just so simple about the ‘like’ button.”

So what’s changed. Why now?

Perhaps the people at Facebook are concerned about all the negatives that could come with a ‘dislike’ button.

The dislike button could cause problems by turning people away. It’s much easier to be ‘not nice’ to others from behind the protection of a screen, and that is the opposite effect that Facebook aims for. While it’s already possible to leave angry or disappointed comments on a Facebook post, it does requires effort on the part of the user.

But the problem according to Wired.com’s analysis of the new button is that Facebook depends on every “like, share, and comment” to decide what a Facebook user does and doesn’t see. It highlights that adding a ‘dislike’ button means that the underlying code algorithms that make Facebook work, will have change at a fundamental level in order to process the new ‘dislike’ button.

Facebook: You’re the product.

There’s also the fact that ‘disliking’ something means that users will be telling Facebook that they no longer wish to see certain posts, effectively hiding that content and similar content in the future. This potentially means less engagement from users, which in return means less adverts seen by users and crucially, less money for Facebook. Yes, that’s right, it’s all about the money.

This is perhaps why Zuckerberg talks about the ‘dislike’ button in terms of empathy as opposed to actually disliking something.

The challenge is to implement the new button in such a way that Facebook can still effectively target its users with ads and product placement but still keep them clicking and engaged. As always, when it comes right down to it, the ‘dislike’ button isn’t about answering Facebook users wants, it’s about how Zuckerberg can use it to increase his profit margin.