Should we be disliking the “dislike” button?

Some were shocked and some were pleased back in September 2015, when Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook were going to be adding a “dislike” button to the site. The announcement took place at a live event, where Zuckerberg, almost casually, announced the news that left the jaws of technology commentators around the world on the floor. But what will the addition of this “dislike” button actually entail and what disadvantages could come coupled with its creation?

The news that the company were working on a “dislike” button became widespread within a matter of hours, but now we have all been left in suspense, waiting to see whether or not the new addition will be appearing on our timelines any time soon. This suspense could be entirely down to the extreme mixed response the announcement first received and is still receiving months later. Zuckerberg stated that the idea for the button came from the fact that the general public have been asking for it for years, but it seems that a large number of the general public are entirely against its possible existence.

Facebook have stated that the “dislike” button is a way that people can express their empathy. The site has become renowned for posts talking about the events going on in people’s lives – both good and bad – and when asked, Facebook users stated they felt uncomfortable clicking a “like” button on “sad” posts. They also said they would much prefer to click a button that allowed them to express solidarity. This is all well and good that the button has a purpose, but it is the possibility that the “dislike” button could be misused that is raising concerns with many users. What is going to happen if someone uploads a picture of themselves and then receives a flurry of “dislikes”?

The introduction of Facebook and other social media sites has come with a number of benefits (such as being able to keep in contact with family who are living the other side of the world), as well as a number of disadvantages. Cyber bullying has become increasingly common in the world we live in today and poses a threat to anyone with access to a social media account. 7,296 counselling sessions took place with young people who contacted Childline about online bullying last year alone and it is figures like these that are the reason eyebrows are being raised at the introduction of the “dislike” button.

Could Facebook be entering dangerous waters with this idea? According to Professor Andrea Forte, an expert in social and participatory media at Drexel University in Philadelphia, the idea isn’t a bad one. She has stated that she doubts the “dislike” button will cause users to start wantonly disliking pictures of their friends’ babies, dogs, cats and cooking experiments. We will just have to wait and see what comes of the idea and if Facebook do decide to add the feature to the site, they need to be prepared for any backlash that could come from it.