News that Facebook is adding an alternative to its “like” option has been met with thumbs up all around. The social media giant said that a new feedback button soon will be launched in response to collective angst over how to respond to life’s tragedies.
We all know how odd, callous or just plain wrong it feels to respond to posts about earthquakes, a cancer diagnosis or a beautiful child washed up on a beach with a “like.”
But the new option won’t fix what’s broken.
First, despite what you’re hearing or reading, it’s likely not going to be a “dislike” button. In a recent public forum, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said a “dislike” button has long been the most requested feature from Facebook users, all 1.5 billion of them, according to statistics aggregator Statista. But that’s not what they’re building.
The option, he said, will be more of an “empathy” response.
“We didn’t want to just build a ‘dislike’ button,” Zuckerberg is quoted as saying, “because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create.
“People aren’t looking for an ability to downvote other people’s posts.”
I’m sorry. What?
I know. I’ve been sucked into watching clips of the adorable laughing baby and the naughty cats, the blessed four-ingredient entrees and the blue dress (or was it gold?) over and over until, in my trance-like state, I almost missed my deadlines. (Editor’s note to Gail: “Almost”?)
But Zuckerberg is being disingenuous if he doesn’t acknowledge the dark side of his colossal community forum. Besides, this is the guy whose headquarters’ “Empathy Room” teaches employees how to address the devastation faced by people with flip phones.
While cyberbullying certainly isn’t unique to Facebook, the site provides an easy, and massive, forum for getting good at it with few repercussions.
“There is a universal trash talking among Facebook users, as with any social media,” said Minjae Lee, a junior at Blake School in Minneapolis. She’s been on the giving and receiving end of that trash talk, which runs the gamut from religion to politics to gossip about teachers and peers.
“I absolutely regret my immature actions, and, after becoming a victim myself, I realized how it is important to carefully review my posts before I actually post them on my social media page,” Lee said.
Still, too many of her peers defend their cruelty with “JK” (just kidding). Despite being “intrigued and informed about many social issues,” Lee recently deactivated her Facebook account.
Sophia Mack, a freshman at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, did a project on cyberbullying last spring “and learned that it happens more than we think. Mark Zuckerberg’s comment about not wanting to give people a way to trash others on Facebook sounds naive.”
Trash talk isn’t the end of it. Hang out with tweens and teens and you’ll learn that it’s the seemingly small things — the number, or lack of, FB friends, the dearth of “likes” on a post they’re so proud of — that chip away at their self-confidence.
Even a recent online discussion about the new empathy button revealed what’s inevitably to come.
First guy: “We want a dislike button, screw an empathy button, that is BS. FB has been the down fall of civilization for quit some time and this might just finalize it!!”
Second guy: “Well it’s because of rude people like you that make the Internet a dark gloomy place.”
First guy: “Sorry, you are the rude individual. Your comment is the dark gloomy Internet, mine was about civilization not the Internet. If you feel it is dark and gloomy, maybe you should leave.”
Thanks, guys! For participating in my column, you both win an hour of grammar review!
To be fair, I commend Zuckerberg for acknowledging that “not every moment is a good moment” and that we are, truly, good at heart and want to respond in the right way.
But, honestly, I worry that another icon is just another opportunity to be lazy and disconnected. My favorite example was a touchingly personal greeting from someone who “friended” me and posted, “I don’t think I know you, but Happy Birthday, anyway.”
Ironically, a recent Facebook post linked readers to a piece on why Danish parents and their kids are happier than Americans. One reason is that they “cozy around together,” with games, singing and eating — often by candlelight. Not a computer in sight.
Along those lines, Facebook already has a wonderful, and underutilized, empathy button. It’s called “log out,” and it’s very easy to use. You simply click on it, and you immediately return to the real world, which is full of people who likely aren’t always enjoying good moments.
So you might pick up the phone (even a flip phone works in this case) and call someone who is having a terrible time. Tell him or her that you would like to drop by. Bring cookies.
Or send a handwritten card. Or write a check to a nonprofit championing what you care deeply about.
I promise. They will like — very, very much — your genuinely heartfelt and face-to-face effort.