Earlier this week, Facebook confirmed that it is going to start testing something that it has been asked about for many years – a ‘dislike’ button.
When Facebook introduced the ‘like’ button in early 2009, it didn’t take too long for people to ask where the ‘dislike’ button was – but not necessarily in a negative way. For example, it is likely that you will have seen the Syrian refugee crisis developing in your Facebook feed, but clicking ‘like’ on a story such as this seems inappropriate.
But it didn’t take long for the media to see another side of the ‘dislike’ button – trolling. And this is a very real threat to Facebook. The other major social networks which have dislike functions are YouTube’s thumbs down and Reddit’s down-vote. Now, I am a big fan of both of these networks, but things can get into a spiral of negativity pretty quickly and big fights can break out. However, it should also be noted that both Reddit and YouTube have a strong degree of anonymity built into them – the lack of anonymity on Facebook could just make the dislike button work.
In most cases, Facebook polices itself. People are using their real identities and are connected to people who they know in real life, so if they do start trolling, then their friends and family will see it. This is often enough to stop people going too crazy. Not wanting to share your online behaviour with your connections was one of the reasons why Facebook changed its engagement metrics to include how long someone looks at a post.
The likely recipients of dislikes are predictable – banks, accounts which still engage in click-baiting (one of Facebook’s pet hates), advertisements, public enemies (political parties, newspapers, etc.). But many of these groups are important clients for Facebook, so why would Facebook take a risk and introduce a dislike button?
When someone engages with some content on Facebook, this gives Facebook intelligence – when the person was on Facebook, what type of content grabbed their attention, what that person has an interest in, etc. This is all information which makes advertising on Facebook very attractive to digital marketers. And the dislike button is another means of Facebook attracting engagement: who said all engagement needs to be positive?
If there is a piece of content that you disagree with today on Facebook, and you can’t be bothered to put your head above the parapet and comment, you will likely ignore it. This is not what Facebook wants you to do as it will not provide information for advertisers. The dislike button should also deliver a better news feed in the long term as Facebook will get an even better idea of what you like and what you don’t.
My personal opinion is that the introduction of a negative engagement tool can only make Facebook a less positive place to be. The threat of increased trolling is very real: most trolls will use a fake account so the theory of Facebook policing itself doesn’t work. But the dislike button is a means for Facebook to drive more a thorough understanding of its users, which will make it a more powerful advertising tool – theoretically improving the experience of all parties.
And most importantly of all, it will also give you a chance to say what you really think about all of your friend’s cat photos.
What effect do you think the dislike button will have on Facebook? Leave a comment share your thoughts.