Disliking Dislike

Why the world got upset over something that never happened.

Well, life isn’t that simple

There’s a scene in Donnie Darko, where the students of a class are asked to put fictional scenarios on a timeline. At one end of the spectrum is Fear, at the other Love. Donnie can’t understand this:

“There are other things that need to be taken into account here, like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can’t just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else.”

Recently, Facebook floated the idea of a button for situations where ‘Like’ seemed inappropriate. Stories started to quickly appear referring to this as a ‘dislike’ button — which has been talked about ever since the ‘like’ button first appeared in 2009.

As mention of the ‘dislike’ button spread, articles and negative opinion pieces started popping up :

or my favourite:

A lot of these articles were phrased around Facebook or Mark Zucherberg saying Facebook were getting a ‘Dislike’ button :

  • “Facebook Says It’s Introducing a ‘Dislike’ Button”


  • “Facebook is to add a “dislike” button to its social network, founder Mark Zuckerberg has said.”

Mark Zuckerberg did not say this.

When ‘Like’ is not enough

What he talked about was something much broader, and was in direct response to a journalist asking about a ‘dislike’ button

Judging by the success of the Like button, has there been any discussion of a dislike button?”

Mark’s response is considered and fair, it’s a little long winded but worth reading here. In summary, he made the following points:

  • Facebook like the ‘like’ button, it’s a simple way of quickly expressing a positive emotion.
  • Some people have asked for a ‘Dislike’ button and it’s not something they think is good for the world — “So we’re not going to build that”
  • Voting ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ isn’t something they want to do.
  • ‘Like’ is not always a response people want to give to a sad story.
  • You can always comment, so there are ways of communicating more complex emotions, but they appreciate that’s not as easy as a ‘like’ button.

His final point is worth directly quoting :

“Giving people the power to do that in more ways with more emotions would be powerful, but we need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there.”

So, what’s taken so long?

The idea of a ‘dislike’ or ‘empathy’ button has been discussed for years. One of the possible reasons this hasn’t happened could be the lack of a logical word, or phrase that is as universal as ‘Like’ but meaning something far more abstract.

Perhaps, the problem is the ‘Like’ button itself. Maybe it’s time the ‘Like’ button got updated.

As social media has expanded, we’ve grown steadily more familiar with the concept of a ‘like’ button and what it does — be that in the form of a thumb, a star or a heart. In most instances, these actions no longer even have an official name, making the actual word ‘Like’ next to the thumb on Facebook seem outdated. Perhaps the ‘Like’ button needs updating to be something more empathic and less singularly positive.

A heart can mean a variety of things. It can be seen as outwardly positive; to ‘love’ or be ‘in love’ with something. But love doesn’t have to be of the Justin Bieber fan-girl variety, love can be more abstract. “Touching your heart” or “your heart going out” can be more sentimental and emotive than something as simple as ‘Liking’.

As the amount of content we’re exposed to increases, so to will our need to convey a wider variety of emotions. ‘Liking’ something may quickly become too simple a gesture; so instead perhaps we need something more universal and empathic. Maybe, we need the ability to express a wider variety of emotion via an interface that takes into account “the whole spectrum of human emotion”.