Since its creation, Facebook has become a global gathering place. People from all around the world connect with friends and strangers to share their opinions, experiences, and likes. The simple button below status updates is one Facebook’s most iconic features and has led to one incredibly common request. People keep asking for a dislike button.
It makes sense; people want to be able to react to things in a range of ways. Not every status update calls for a like. When a friend shares a sad story or photo, it feels wrong that the only reaction allowed is a like.
A Greater Range of Reactions
Facebook operates off the idea that “if you don’t have something nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all.” Only they would say, “if you don’t have a like to give you shouldn’t give any reaction at all.” It may feel restrictive, but for years Facebook has contended that this creates a more positive atmosphere. But times are changing.
In 2016 Facebook dramatically changed the like system. The simple one button feature transformed into an array of 6 different emotional reactions. In addition to the old thumbs up, there was suddenly a heart, a laughing face, an angry smiley, a wow emoticon with a gaping mouth, and a sad smiley with a single tear.
These reactions dramatically increased the choices people have when it comes to providing their friends with single-click feedback. Now Facebook is looking to expand options even further in their Facebook Messenger service
A Change to Messenger
The dislike button is making its debut in the Facebook Messenger app. The chat application has become more developed as Facebook adds new features, and the latest option is the ability to react to the different message. Now when your friend sends you a message you don’t have to type out a reply, you can react to it the same way you respond to their photos and status updates.
Click on a gray smiley face to the right of a message and a range of reactions will pop up. There are reactions for love, laughter, awe, sadness, anger, approval, and disapproval. You might recognize the first six as variations on the current reaction options; it’s the final choice that adds a new dimension. Now users have a quick way to dislike comments made by their chatmates.
Once a reaction is selected it will appear to the left of the comment. This allows for a new range of communication options as people can react to each message separately rather than responding to them all at once. This new addition joins features like emojis, stickers, and gif reactions. Facebook is trying to make communicating through Messenger as quick, flexible, and fun as possible. The Messenger reaction system is a further step in this direction.
Changing the Conversation
The new dislike button might be the feature that millions of users have dreamed of, or it might be the source of new levels of conflict. Facebook has always shied away from the dislike button because of the negative connotations. It’s one thing for a user to dislike a sad status update from a friend, it’s another to use the dislike option to aggressively insult the accomplishments and emotions of others.
It’s also worth considering the range of polarizing figures that use Facebook. The comment sections of famous political figures are already heated enough, imagine how things will get when thousands of people seek to use the dislike button to express disagreement with others. Some will see this as an important expansion of free speech while others will take it as a new avenue for harassment.
A Global Conversation
Facebook has grown because of the positive validation people can get from using it. There’s a joy that comes from logging on and seeing that your friends have liked your comments. It encourages visitors to keep coming back. This reason is behind the recent change where Facebook keeps track of the number of reactions your recent posts have inspired. In theory, users will interact with Facebook more to increase this number.
But what will happen if a certain percentage of the total reactions are negative? Facebook has already dipped its toes into this pool with the angry reaction, but it was still vague enough to avoid certain levels of conflict.
By now it should be clear that even these minor changes can have a significant impact on Facebook’s user base. With almost two billion monthly users even a small increase in conflict and negativity can have a major impact. It can be argued that Facebook has both financial and social responsibilities when it comes to shaping the global discourse.
The Future of the Dislike Button
For years now people have been asking for a dislike button, and now it looks like they may get their wishes. In the end, it all depends on how people react to the new reaction options within the Messenger app. If the new thumbs down choice catches on, then it might make its way into the main site. It’s another example of Facebook testing out new options, and only time will tell which options will catch on and which will disappear.
For now, Facebook feeds around the globe are safe from the threat of dislikes. Users who want to express their disapproval will have to stick to the Messenger app or express their dislike in words with a written comment.