The spontaneous feel of the original Facebook is disappearing. Dislike.
When I first heard about the recently announced prospect of Facebook rolling out a “dislike” button, the same nauseating feeling I had in 2013 when Facebook decided to allow users to edit their posts came over me. The negative and unintended consequences of either of those just makes me uncomfortable.
Since its inception, Facebook, social media’s most popular site, has allowed people to stay in touch with old friends and to meet new people from across the globe. Every day people create new friendships with people they may otherwise never have met. It has also, of course, allowed people to make enemies they may never have met and to lose friends over typos, grammatical mistakes, and erroneous comments that were misunderstood not only by the reader but probably by the person posting it. More than anything though, it allowed for conversation – unfiltered, unfettered, and unencumbered by the constraints of formal emails and the categorized bulkiness of forums.
According to Wikipedia, Facebook, originally named “Facemash,” opened on October 28, 2003. The entry reads:
Initially, the website was invented by a Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, and three of his classmates – Andrew McCollum, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz. Zuckerberg wrote the software for the Facemash website when he was in his second year of college. The website was set up as a type of “hot or not” game for Harvard students. The website allowed visitors to compare two student pictures side-by-side and let them choose who was “hot” and who was “not”…..
As the story goes, that night Mark Zuckerberg posted the following:
I’m a little intoxicated, not gonna lie. So what if it’s not even 10 pm and it’s a Tuesday night? What? The Kirkland dormitory facebook is open on my desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendiedous [sic] facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of some farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.
Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, apparent literary genius and drunken typist pressed “Enter” on his keyboard more than a decade ago, and his words were immortalized exactly as they were placed that night. There was no going back and fixing it, no editing the content or the context, and no retraction. It is precisely what he wrote and people responded to it. It happened in real time, much in the same way actual face-to-face conversations occur when you’re chatting with friends on the phone or at the pub. Sometimes you’re eloquent, and other times you put your foot in your mouth. There was a flow and simplicity to Facebook and in 2013, when they allowed posts to be edited, it lost its simple elegance.
There’s no doubt that people might appreciate the ability to correct typos and spelling mistakes and as one writer puts it, make themselves “look like less of an idiot.” Apparently the little red squiggly line calling out to you that you’ve horrendiedously misspelled a word is just not enough for some people. It also, of course, gives people the ability to return to old posts and completely alter what they originally said – something Facebook evidently saw as important enough to not only give people that ability, but obscure the act. Edits a person makes are noted by a barley visible greyed out tag that is difficult to see if you’re not looking for it.
For the last six years, every Facebook status, photo, or page has had a little “Like” button that accompanies it. Want to show your approval? Click that button.
From a marketing perspective, that button and your click is incredibly important as it essentially determines your popularity. When it comes to Facebook’s algorithms, it also potentially determines whether any of your content or any of your future content is seen by other people. It can even determine whether or not people find you or your page at all. While it might be nice for you to get a few clicks from friends who “Like” your vacation pictures, it’s an entirely different scenario for a business page and can make or break an organization. It’s simple, right? You read a headline, see an image or a video, read a comment, and click “Like.” You don’t even have to read the article behind the headline or watch the video. You don’t even have to form or express a real opinion. You just click “Like” and move on to the next one and the next and the next. Not only are you expressing how much you like things, but the things are reaping the benefits of your casual click.
Users have been asking for a “Dislike” button for years. Essentially, people want an equally lazy way to show their displeasure with posts, and this week Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg responded.
“I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years,” Zuckerberg said, according to Re/Code and Business Insider. “Today is a special day, because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it.”
What could possibly go wrong?
The first example that comes to mind, because my wife, Pamela Joye, is a photographer, is a photograph. Are you disliking the photo, the photographer, or the subject of the photograph? And is it appropriate to dislike a photo of a homeless person, hungry kids, or a little girl’s birthday? Or let’s say you see a t-shirt for self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders that says, “Because F#%k this Sh#t.” Are you disliking the shirt, Sanders, the message, the site? Are you a Bernie supporter or not? Can a single click really convey that you hate the photo, don’t like the photographer, are offended by the t-shirt, feel empathy from the image, or simply don’t really like anything?
We all have that friend who writes vague posts of angst and despair, the ones for which we have no idea what happened to upset them to the point of posting. The “could this day get any worse” post that could mean anything from a flat tire to the sudden death of a loved one. Do they get an empathy click? Because now, give
n a choice, you certainly can’t click “Like,” and typing “:-(“ just takes too much effort.
Maybe a rating system for posts that includes, “Oh, for the love of God you f&%king drama queen, what happened now,” would be more useful.
And what happens to those “dislike” clicks? What will Facebook’s algorithm determine from those, and who will they sell that data to? If someone gets sympathy clicks, will that person suddenly be inundated with anti-depressant pharmaceuticals and suicide hotline phone numbers because 35 percent of their friends felt sorry for them?
The Like button has given us an easy way to show our approval and virtual thumbs up without any real effort on our part. Emoticons, also available on Facebook, allow us to quickly express some emotions without the effort of typing. Now Facebook wants to give us a way to express displeasure or sympathy by clicking a button with no explanation, because we’ve somehow indicated that we can’t be bothered to write something to express how we feel.
On the other hand, it may cause people to call each other on the phone, meet for coffee, or write an email to explain exactly why they disliked one of the three hundred pictures of your cousin’s newborn you posted. Granted, it’s not a particularly attractive baby, but even if it was, anyone would have had enough by the fifth post.
Dislike? No, you couldn’t… Could you?