The Social Implications of a “Dislike” Button

January, 11 2012
Posted in Social Media
Posted by Hien

Negative Iconography

There are a lot of proponents in favor of Facebook implementing a “dislike” button along with its very popular “like” button. Facebook announced in October 2011 that it will not allow any developers to create apps that have a “dislike” button since the possibility of negative ramifications outweigh the users’ need to express displeasure. In the light of recent cyber-bullying reports and increasing participation from businesses on Facebook, there is little hope that Facebook will allow the implementation of a “dislike” button. Dislike your neighbor’s photos of her cat in multiple flattering poses posted on your wall? You will have to suffer passive aggressively in cyber silence.

Facebook is not the only social media platform that shares the same feel-good sentiment. Social media platforms containing personal content from users are more sensitive and vulnerable to abuse. Flickr, Google+ and Tumblr either allow you to “favorite,” “like,” or “+1” an entry, but there is currently not an option to “dislike.” Creative material, however, is subjected to a different set of standards. Websites that rank their creative content based on votes allow users to vote “thumbs down” or “thumbs up.” YouTube, Digg and Reddit use this data to highlight the most engaging content as voted by their audience. The option to give a popular entry a “thumbs down” is an expression from the online community that the entry may not contain any substantial or relevant information. The number of views may only indicate the controversial nature of the piece and not necessarily indicate an audience’s preference. My Facebook feed informs me that 15 of my friends has read the article “Snooki Finally Reaches Goal Weight of 98 Pounds – But Has She Gone Too Far?” whereas only 1 friend has read “Guantánamo, 10 Years Later.” I can state with absolute confidence that all of my Facebook friends will agree that Guantánamo’s anniversary is more important to the course of history than a skinny Snooki.

But the web is just like your family, there is always one black sheep. Yelp, whose description is “the fun and easy way to find and talk about great (and not so great) local businesses,” is a collection of reviews from the general public. Yelp allows you to vote a review “useful,” “funny,” or “cool,” but is devoid of any option to mark the review as containing less relevant information. We are all familiar with the petty Yelper that hands out a 1-star review to our favorite hole-in-the-wall for not having red-carpet worthy service. Or the Yelper afflicted with a Catch-22 dilemma who waited “endlessly” for a table at a very popular restaurant that Yelp helped make popular. User reviews need to be protected against vengeful businesses, but a democratic system needs to be in place to demote small-minded sentiments. Useful details should be more readily accessible to the information-seeker instead of being drowned in a sea of nit-picky complaints.

Adding the option to “dislike” is usually a controversial decision for social media platforms, but it can also improve user experience by promoting better content. Currently, the most popular icons visually depicting pleasure and displeasure are “thumbs up” and “thumbs down,” respectively. “Thumbs down” is strongly perceived as negative in popular culture. Perhaps, a compromise can be reached by choosing an icon or adjective that has less of a negative connotation. If a “thumbs down” icon expresses too much negativity, we can follow the example of my first grade teacher–handing out silver foiled stars instead of gold ones.