17th September 2015

Why Facebook Isn’t Actually Introducing a ‘Dislike’ Button

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Yesterday, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as it was announced that, finally, Facebook would be introducing a ‘Dislike’ button. It is what we have been waiting for… Well, according to my friends on Facebook anyway, who were overjoyed at the idea of being able to dislike photos of ultrasounds and attention-seeking statuses.

However, unfortunately, this isn’t quite what was revealed. Let’s look at what our Mark Zuckerberg had to say:

“People have asked about the ‘Dislike’ button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day where I actually get to say we are working on it and are very close to shipping a test of it.”

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Okay, so this does sound quite conclusive and we can imagine half the journalists at the event now switching off as they type and publish the headline ‘DISLIKE BUTTON FOR FACEBOOK’, as fast as their SEO trained fingers can manage it. But, this statement was followed with:

“We didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create. You don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment that’s important to you in your day and then have someone down vote it. That isn’t what we’re here to build in the world.

“But over the years of people asking for this, what we’ve kind of come to understand is that people aren’t looking an ability to downvote other people’s posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy.”

A-ha. So, while Mark talks about the Dislike button what is really meant is that there is going to be a way to express empathy – perhaps a hug button would be more appropriate?

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I must admit, when the (inaccurate) news broke among the digital team at Tangerine yesterday, I was surprised. Not just because Mark had denied there would ever be a Dislike button only 6 months ago (and he wouldn’t lie to us, right?) but because adding such a feature would clearly worry advertisers. While good brands appreciate feedback, providing a Dislike button for sponsored posts would open a Pandora’s Box of trolling and negativity. And what about online bullying? Allowing a Dislike button in some cases could cause actual harm to vulnerable users. All of which, is certainly not in Facebook’s values.

So, whether you’re for or against a Dislike button, it seems Mark’s terminology was merely aimed at framing the new feature in a way that users could understand (and that journalists would report on). It seems that we’ll just have to keep on dreaming about how we can express our boredom with click-bait posts and exotic holiday snaps.*

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(*Or, we could all make more of the Hide button, but that is another blog!)


By Jess Matthewman, B2B Digital Manager