You know when you're on Facebook, and someone posts something along the lines of, "The diagnoses came in, it's cancer." How do you respond? You may immediately comment that they are in your thoughts or "Noo!" or "So sorry to hear," or whatever you deem appropriate, but more often than not, there will be a good number of people "liking" the post. Do you mean you "like" that this person has cancer? Wow, you are a horrible human being.
But obviously, that is not the case and what you are really trying to say is that you acknowledge that they posted this comment and you want them to know that you now know that they have cancer. In terms of the American vernacular, the word "like" has taken on a wildly different meaning, connotatively.
For years, Facebookers have pleaded and fan-paged and even petitioned, "Give us a dislike button," for the love of God! Well that day has finally...not... come.
Last week, Facebook released a series of new "thumb" icons, including a thumbs down, meaning "dislike," to offer users more ways to express their emotions without having to use their big grown-up words that can be oh so cumbersome. But, the "stickers," as Facebook calls them, are only available by using the Instant Messenger feature. This very limited release, ironically, has not gotten very many "likes."
Why not allow people to express themselves more accurately in Facebook's open forum? As reported on the Huffington Post "Actions on Facebook tend to focus on positive social interactions," Facebook engineer Bob Baldwin said during a Reddit AMA in April. "Like is the lightest-weight way to express positive sentiment. I don't think adding a light-weight way to express negative sentiment would be that valuable."
Basically, Facebook is ensuring that its population doesn't turn into a bunch of haters.
Other websites have incorporated thumbing things up and down many years ago, most blogs use this as well as popular social media sites Reddit and Youtube. For those who spend a lot of time mulling over the comment section of Youtube, it is easy to see why Facebook decision-makers are worried that adding the thumbs down function could cause its users to become big assholes.
Youtube is filled with streams of negativity about the videos posted, but also about the comments made about the posted videos. Using my all-time favorite horrible Youtube video Rebecca Black's "Friday" as an example, the video itself has over 62 million views and over a million people gave it a thumbs down. In addition to the slew of negative comments, there are also thumbs down on positive reactions to the video.
Assumedly, this is something that Facebook wants to avoid, but does the social network really pat itself on the back for ushering in "positive interactions?" Err... I hope not. There is more smack-talking on Facebook than at a Jar Jar Binks booth at Comic-Con.
Why introduce the thumbs down function in Messenger yet not in the site as a whole? One could presume that if you are IMing with a single person or a few people, you know them fairly well and knocking down whatever they have just said to you is peachy. Negativity also begets negativity and when it is an A.B. conversation, no one else will be at liberty to see (C?) it.
So why add the button at all? Facebook, in general, likes to take baby steps with big changes and it's been rumored that this is just the first step towards a full site "dislike" button. Personally, it doesn't make much sense to me, if I'm chatting with you, then we're chatting and I have time to express my emotions rather than using a visual expression, but don't forget that I am old and I still have a house phone.
What will happen if (when) Facebook does release a "thumbs down?" In terms of marketing, this presents a wave of new opportunities and drawbacks. When a company wants to get your information now, they simply ask you to like them, and if you like them like them, you let the world know. But would companies want to know if you didn't like them? If I was a CEO of some company, I would want to know who my real fans were and who were not. Unless, I was a horrible company and then no way Jose; keep your opinion to yourself. Imagine the "dislikes" a Walmart or Monsanto might receive. Just thumb them down rather than wasting your precious time expressing an opinion with vocabulary and stuff.
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How would it change your daily interactions with friends and acquaintances? Of course, the obvious, it would be so nice to be able to dislike someone's bad day, but would you start disliking his or her everyday discourse? We all have those friends that we wish would shut the hell up; with a thumbs down button, we would be able to tell them much easier than having to spell it out. All those vaguebookers would get their comeuppance: "I can't believe it!" Bam - dislike. "Sometimes I just wish it was all easier." Shut up - dislike. "Seriously?" Seriously your annoying-ass self - dislike. How simple would it all be if you could express grievance through the click of a button?
Facebook could turn into a very hateful place, though, and the disapproval would be completely unconstructive. No more long rants about why you don't agree with someone that may impact them or someone else in their circle, we would just slam them and go on our way.
And really, who wants to get notified every time someone dislikes something they have to say? If you are not accustom to getting shit on, like, say for example, someone who regularly blogs for a media site and has been told to go die in a fire on more than three occasions, it's very taxing on your ego to be told that something you have to say is bad. According to research teens post on Facebook in order to get approval via Facebook likes, especially over their photos. What's going to happen when all the mean girls from your school can thumbs down your latest duck face selfie? Suicides from online bullying are already pervasive enough, why make it that much easer to do.
For now, Facebook hasn't said when they will release a thumbs down button across the entire site, but I have a feeling it will be sooner rather than later. If there was a sideways thumb to express, "I don't know how I feel about this," I would click that about this topic.