Imagine a teenage freshman entering high school for the first time. He attends his first football game in the hometown stadium as one who finally belongs in the student section. He snaps a few pictures with his friends and promptly uploads them to Facebook. The next morning he logs on and sees he has a set number of approvals. These are called “likes.”
Now, if that same high school freshman logged on and saw he received any sort of disapproval, he’d be left to wonder what it was he did wrong. He’d wonder what about the picture is disapprove-able and would reconsider the idea of having it as a symbol of who he is online.
While we use a high school-age student, a study conducted by Knowthenet.org shows that 19-year-old males are most at risk for Facebook cyber bullying.
Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that Facebook is working on the long-anticipated addition of a dislike button. In an article on Yahoo.com, he stated, “People have asked about the dislike button for many years … What they really want is the ability to express empathy.”
While intentions behind the feature are seemingly pure, past use of social media proves this would bring hurt to users worldwide.
Since the rise in popularity of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the correlating rise in online misconduct has created alarm. Cyber bullying — a phrase unknown to the population pre-2000s — has become so prevalent that campaigns have been created in protest. Adding a dislike button should be protested just as strongly.
According to stopbullying.gov, cyber bullying is linked to depression, anxiety and loss of interest in routine activities. Most telling of these data, social media has become another way to determine self-worth. If posting pictures and statuses is about expressing who an individual really is, then likes and dislikes quantify the approval and disapproval of that message.
While dislikes may create a space for empathy for some or the warning of an uninteresting post for others, the unbridled range of possibilities to dislike other items on Facebook would become a breeding ground for hate and shaming.
In the same article, the writer states Facebook “previously decided against building the button — despite complaints from users — because it didn’t want to evoke negative reactions.”
This is where Facebook’s stance should lie.
If anything, the absence of a dislike button has created a space to express — with actual words — sympathy for a lost life or a tragic event. A simplified button would take the human-touch of a specified message out of the equation. One who might have stopped and took the time to write a sentiment could now feel it would equate with a dislike — a pathetic, pixelated display of empathy — and move on.
To those who say that we need to tough it out and stop being sensitive to negative feedback online, the addition of an intentionally disapproving mechanism hardly fosters an idea of acceptance from the get-go.
Facebook is going to have to employ some serious thought behind monitoring the use of the dislike button if they want to keep the connotation positive. Examples from the history of social media prove we shouldn’t be trusted to use a dislike button liberally.