Facebook Is Adding An Empathy Button, Not “Dislike”

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Facebook is finally working on a feature that users have wanted for years: a “dislike” button that will let us react to posts that aren’t strictly positive.

Speaking at a live Q&A event Tuesday, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that “not every moment is a good moment” and that “it may not be comfortable” to flash a thumbs-up at certain types of posts. What he didn’t say, however, is how the change would affect the type of content you see on Facebook. And that issue is, by far, the most critical.

Remember, for a second, that “liking” a post doesn’t just send a friendly message to the person who posted it. It also sends a signal to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm that you appreciate this type of content and would like to see more of it. So, despite the connotations of the word itself, the “like” button isn’t just about approval — it’s an explicit signal of how important a given subject is to you.

What exactly did Zuck say?

“I think people have asked about the Dislike button for many years…today is the day where I actually get to say that we’re working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it.”

                                        BUT

“We didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create.”

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“If Facebook built a Dislike button, it would just cause confusion. If I share a post about victims of a natural disaster, and you Dislike it, does that mean you Dislike that the tragedy happened? That you Dislike the victims? That you Dislike that I posted it? It’s extraordinarily ambiguous in a way that directly conflicts with how Facebook builds products.”

“What makes much more sense is a button that conveys that you empathize or sympathize with a post’s author and/or those affected by the tough situation.”

 

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