In 2009, Facebook added the “like” button. This little thing let you know if anyone approved of your posts, your political statuses, and the picture you took of your cat wearing something funny. But people clamored for a button to show their disapproval, their sadness, their rage. Yes, the internet masses demanded a “dislike” button. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (not to be confused with future Lex Luthor Jesse Eisenberg), unveiled plans to finally bring people the dislike button. Speaking at a Q&A session on Tuesday, Zuckerberg stated “today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it,” adding that the various users of Facebook “really want is an ability to express empathy.” There is no word on when this feature will go live.
Of course, there are some questions to be asked. Given the increasing profile of internet bullying, by both kids and adults, on Facebook and elsewhere, there is a question of whether this new feature could be used to harass and abuse people. Furthermore, could it possibly discourage people from expressing their opinion on something should the majority (or vocal minority) consider it to be unpopular. While the intent is to show empathy, there is a risk that this new feature will be abused by online harassers to torment or even persecute their targets. In the past, comment system Disquis had to disable the down vote option’s number reveal because it was leading to people using it to remove comments that they personally did not agree with. Given the fickle nature of the online community, it would only be a matter of time until someone twists it to their own ends.
In the end, this is a feature that was clamored for by the Facebook masses and many are looking forward to it. Perhaps it will be an indicator of empathy after all.