Should Facebook have a “dislike” button?

July 8th, 2009

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?


8 Responses to “Should Facebook have a “dislike” button?”

  1. Eeeeka on July 8, 2009 8:31 am

    If there were such a thing, I would use a dislike button for commiserating. You broke the heel off your shoe? Dislike. Your spouse just ate the last cookie? Dislike. “Liking” updates like those seems….really weird somehow. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would actually ever use the thing if we had it.

  2. MelissaJane on July 8, 2009 9:22 am

    I’m with you, and also the previous commenter. I think part of the problem is that the “like” option just isn’t appropriate much of the time (as in Eeeeka’s examples) – I think the option I want is “commiserate.” And “appreciate.”

  3. veronica on July 8, 2009 10:18 am

    I had the status message recently that I was “beginning to think that FB status messages aren’t the best place to have a political debate” because of a long protracted comment war about healthcare on a friend’s wall. Seriously, we can’t debate this civilly in person, we have wall wars?

  4. Mappy on July 8, 2009 11:58 am

    I don’t think I “LIKE” the idea of a “DISLIKE” button. Personally, I would use it like the first poster, but think it could get potentially ugly. I, too, have deleted comments by friends that I just thought were inappropriate to the posting, and think that “DISLIKE” could end up being misinterpreted. “Commiserate” and “appreciate” are good ideas.

  5. Hope on July 8, 2009 5:27 pm

    I would appreciate a dislike button for people who post something negative. Like, say, a fellow Red Sox fan announces that something bad has happened to one of our players. It would be a form of commiseration.

    On the other hand, the possibility for passive aggression pretty much outweighs any of the possible benefits.

    What is it about facebook that makes people so passive aggressive? Something about being in the privacy of your own home. You can hide behind your computer screen while still reaching a wide audience.

  6. Apostate on July 8, 2009 8:03 pm

    I only have about 150 FB friends

    Love the use of “only” there…

    I know so many people have 400-500 that 150 seems pretty modest in comparison, but still. Haha.

  7. Wendy on July 10, 2009 8:35 am

    I agree that a dislike button would better facillitate polarization. I guess if someone didn’t like something I said, I’d rather something private from them or a comment saying, “Gee, I’m sorry you’re kid is sick” as it’s more specific.

    A dislike button just has so many ways to go wrong, you know? Frankly, my take on it is that our moms were right,”If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

  8. Fillyjonk on July 11, 2009 1:48 am

    My Facebook friends, maybe especially the ones who are Kate’s friends, seem to have developed a pretty good system for this:

    [Update] I got in a minor fender-bender and am now posting about it in a witty way
    [Comment] DISLIKE

    Partly I just find it really funny when people get cappy, but shouting “DISLIKE” when you feel bad about a minor misfortune is both amusing and appropriate within Facebook’s standards of interaction.

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