Should Facebook have a “dislike” button?

On Facebook, you can “like” someone’s updates by clicking on a little thumbs-up button. You can’t “dislike” an update, though, and of course there’s a fan group advocating for a dislike button.

FB users, what you do think?

Personally, I’m agin’ it.

Granted, the “like” button doesn’t have all the subtlety one might wish. What is it, exactly, that is being “liked”? The style or the substance of the update? I have sometimes “liked” updates by friends who were complaining about some minor calamity or other. I hope they realized I didn’t actually like the fact that they had a fender-bender or a sinus infection, but rather admired the outraged wit with which they conveyed this news.

So “dislike” might be good in order to respond to bad-news updates. (MINOR bad-news updates, that is: a Facebook thumbs-down would be an appropriate response to having to work over the weekend, not to the death of a parent.) I also know some people who like to post really bad puns and Borscht-Belt quality jokes sometimes, for whom a “dislike” button would be appropriate. Then again, that’s such a pathetic form of heckling I would be revealing myself to be no better a heckler than they are comics.

But aside from those situations, it seems that an FB “dislike” button would add to the aggressiveness and polarization that the internet already facilitates far too well. I only have about 150 FB friends, but they span the political range from followers of Lenin to followers of Limbaugh. Partially because of this, I don’t often post updates on political matters beyond the occasional fangirl squee about some outfit of Mrs. Obama, or my happiness that another state has legalized gay marriage.

In general, political or not, I have a policy that if you don’t agree with one of my updates, e-mail or message me, don’t disagree in a comment. I don’t think Facebook is a good place for complex philosophical discussion, and I don’t want any of my FB friends–who, of course, mostly don’t know each other–to hurt the feelings of any other friend, deliberately or accidentally. If you believe homosexuality is immoral, I’ll discuss that with you. But not on my online living room, in front of all my gay friends. That’s just rude. (Obviously there is a place for arguing and even trash-talking on FB, but that’s in the realm of sports rivalries, pop-culture debates, private jokes, and the like. Not serious stuff.)

I’ve had to delete the occasional comment and explain that policy to friends on occasion, and generally folks have been very cool with it and get that I’m not shutting them down, I’m just asking them to take the conversation elsewhere. But I think a “dislike” option would just be … too tempting. And you probably wouldn’t be able to delete it if someone “disliked” your post either, the way you can a rude comment.

So that’s why I’m against it, which, as you can see, stems from my experience in trying to maintain an interesting and useful Facebook life in which the diversity of my network is a feature, not a bug.

What’s your take?

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