“Hey guys, my boyfriend broke up with me this weekend, a deer hit my car, and my dog ran away.” – Feeling Depressed.*
These likes are followed by comments along the lines of, “I didn’t click ‘Like’ because I like it, I clicked it to show support. I’m here for you!”
But what if there was a different button users could press, one that better summarizes the emotions of friends looking to offer their support in difficult times?
Enter the “sympathize” button.
The BBC reported that Facebook was toying with the idea of a “sympathize” button that would replace liking something when people tag an emotion like sadness, anger, frustration, and fear. It’s an option for users to tell each other that they’re listening without having to write out a comment.
A “sympathize” button would be the emotional equivalent of moving the birthday option to the News Feed. Users used to go to someone’s profile to wish them a ‘Happy Birthday’ (and do a little once-a-year stalking) but now can just type a few words into the box and hit enter. With the sympathize button, your friends wouldn’t actually have to care about your problems or ask if they can help, they could just acknowledge that they saw your issues and keep you at a distance.
Most users are unamused. If any new button was going to be added, it’s going to be a ‘Dislike’ button. After all, isn’t that the natural counterpart to a ‘Like’ button?
The ‘Dislike’ Button Would Change the DNA of Facebook
With Facebook’s current algorithm, posts that gain traction with several likes and comments are posted on the New Feeds of more users. This gives posts a snowball effect: the more popular you are, the more exposure you’ll get.
This means that a very controversial post that everyone is criticizing will get more exposure than a post about volunteering or donating to a cause. A ‘Dislike’ button could alter the algorithm of Facebook to make it more like Reddit. Hitting ‘Like’ would be an up-vote and clicking ‘Dislike’ would be a down-vote.
Honestly, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Users wouldn’t be rewarded for posting offensive content and they would have more control of what they saw. Right now, Facebook users are at the mercy of the algorithm to see content – unlike Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Up-votes and down-votes could solve Facebook’s algo problem and give users more control instead of forcing them to unfollow annoying “friends.” (Plus, it’s not like Facebook isn’t already playing copycat.)
Even if Facebook didn’t go completely “Reddit-style,” disliking content could let Facebook track what someone wants to see and doesn’t want to see. I guess we could call this “Pandora-style.”
We Can’t Handle a ‘Dislike’ Button
If Facebook ever did add a ‘Dislike’ button to make its universe look more like Reddit, it could adopt the inherent mean-ness that Reddit users have. Their wit and sarcasm have made the site what it is, and most users have to have a thick skin to post confidently there.
Facebook has become the next frontier for schoolyard bullies, they’ll send rude messages and attack their victims with snotty comments. A ‘Dislike’ button could lead to a mob mentality as peers team up to ‘Dislike’ a post. There are so many ways that a cyberbully could use it to his or her advantage.
These are just a few speculations about what a “Dislike” button could do to Facebook, and I’m sure there are other consequences and benefits. It just goes to show that a seemingly small addition could cause substantial changes to the social network.
The idea of a Facebook ‘sympathize’ button bubbled to the surface at a recent hackathon, where engineers brainstormed ways to improve the site. The Huffington Post reported that it won’t be coming to user News Feeds soon, but there’s hope for the future.
*Disclaimer: None of these things actually happened to me this weekend.