There’s revived discussion in the halls of Facebook about adding a ‘dislike’ button to the popular social network. In fact, the dislike button is more of a reality than not, according to a recent report in Beta News.
While the Facebook team has long noticed the gap in expression options on network (who doesn’t feel strange liking a post about a missing child?) the addition of a ‘dislike’ button may divide us even more. And, in the case of teens, it could be just one more way to crash and burn emotionally.
Think I’m overreacting? Mention a ‘dislike’ button to a group of teens and you will hear immediate snickers and muffled expressions of joy. It’s the button some teens (and adults) have been waiting, if not aching for. It makes sense that if collecting a lot of likes can put a teen’s self-esteem and mood on the upswing, then attracting as many ‘dislikes’ can make that same mood plummet. Not welcome news in light of more and more studies connecting social media habits to depression in teens.
A recent study affirms teens’ shaky digital perspective: 61% of 13-16 year-old boys and girls stated that the number of ‘likes’ or ‘favorites’ on a social media post matter to them. In fact, 28% of girls and 21% of boys (8-12 year-olds) say that 25-50 ‘likes’ or ‘favorites’ make them feel happy.
But, as Dr. Phil says, there are two sides to every pancake, and indeed, there are some positives to adding a ‘dislike’ button. From a marketing and algorithm point of view, each dislike could reduce certain types of content from showing up in your feed much like Pandora, StumbleUpon or Reddit. So, if you dislike the close-ups of people proudly displaying their wounds with fresh stitches, then curating your content via a ‘dislike’ button could reduce those nauseating posts. That’s cool. However, that same data mining also may apply to the niche and quantity of ads in your feed. Also, a ‘dislike’ would cater to those Facebook fans who can’t wait to give their ‘dislike’ to offensive content (personally, I just hide those feeds or defriend if content is consistently rude.)
The downside of a ‘dislike’ button for families:
- Could exacerbate an already drama-filled social arena kids (and adults) need to navigate daily.
- May affect a child’s mood, self-esteem and impede healthy development of body image and self-worth.
- Can add to miscommunication with peers. ‘Dislike’ is far more ambiguous than ‘like’ and demands more explanation from a person. In the teen world, this daily confusion around intent could result in fractured friendships.
- A ‘dislike’ could be viewed as ridicule, teasing, mocking, or hate, which is cyberbullying.
- May encourage young minds to divide complex issues into simple categories of “good” or “bad.” When the majority of social, educational, political, issues demand more critical thinking, this type of everything or nothing approach could stunt a child’s reasoning skills.
- Could ignite even more debates and arguments and create a culture of negativity that works against a culture of kindness, encouragement, and authenticity.
- May further divide people online encouraging an “us and them,” culture socially, politically, and economically.
C’mon, you might be thinking. It’s just a button, why all the serious discussion?
When you consider the profound ways the “Like” button has changed our culture as a whole and impacted our children’s image of self, then introducing a negative button to the scene becomes a very big deal for parents.
Should we be concerned with buttons that can affirm or extinguish the self-worth our kids are striving to preserve for themselves? You betcha.
If this were a democracy perhaps we could all vote on options to a ‘dislike’ button such as the list Robert Scoble came up with recently. However, at this point we can only encourage the Facebook team to add social markers to its platform that seek to edify and encourage rather than dampen and discourage one another online.
What’s your opinion? Would a ‘dislike’ button on Facebook be a welcome addition? Please weigh in!
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.
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