Facebook’s ‘dislike’ button: Good or bad move?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told a public Q&A session at his headquarters in Menlo Park, California, yesterday that the social media platform was working on a ‘dislike’ button. He said the move was largely in response to persistent pressure for Facebook to allow users to express empathy for sadder news posted, such as deaths or humanitarian disasters. While there is no launch date as yet, it is worth considering how the traditionally happy, feel-good world of Facebook may be affected by this simple but dramatic adjustment.

By a senior account director at Atmosphere Communications

By a senior account director at Atmosphere Communications

  • The quality of brand content may improve. Dan Pinch, head of our sister agency, Society – part of the King James Group – believes that from a marketing perspective, the move would be a good thing. “If brands are creating bad content, they will get this feedback much more clearly and have an opportunity to improve. So a ‘dislike’ button may sift out the really bad stuff and elevate the general standard on the platform.”
  • Brands may take a beating. A ‘dislike’ button could play havoc with the social media stats of corporates the world over. Negative postings about brands and companies may well increase, as people are far more likely to engage with a brand when they are unhappy than when they are happy. While this may give a more accurate reflection of public sentiment about, for instance, a new product or service, the information will be quantitative only. And disgruntled customers may increasingly turn to Facebook to air their grievances and court the support of their friends.
  • Cyberbullying and abuse may increase. Perhaps the most worrying possible spin-off is the increase in cyberbullying of more vulnerable Facebook users, notably the youth. Facebook is already rife with cruelty and abuse, and the button could significantly increase this trend among school children. Imagine the impact on little Johnny’s ego when he proudly posts a picture of his date for the dance, only to have it widely disliked by his classmates.
  • Cries for empathy will skyrocket. Of course the ‘dislike’ button will serve its purpose well in the event of really bad news. The use of the ‘like’ button is very jarring when a story is indisputably sad. But a ‘dislike’ option may well increase the instances of not-so-serious unhappy news. Things may get a lot more depressing on Facebook with a big uptick in posts about traffic fines, rainy days, lost puppies and disastrous dates. In a world packed full of misery, we may well find ourselves missing the happy Facebook of engagements, weddings, batmizvahs and birthdays.

 

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