Facebook: More to Dislike



(David Jensen/EMPICS Entertainment/Abaca Press/TNS)


A dislike button is finally coming to Facebook.

As for its purpose, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and co-founder, stated that “it will mainly be used to express mild disapproval, or to express solidarity when someone posts about a negative event like a death or a loss,” at Facebook’s latest Town Hall meeting.  Showing empathy or disapproval by clicking a button, however ironic that may be, is how he intends to grow the already massive platform. And quite frankly, it’s a brilliant strategy.

At its core, Facebook encourages people to share personal information in what has become a generally  friendly environment. Take the most iconic feature for example; the ‘like’ button. A ‘like’ has widely become a positive interaction that makes us feel good, important or even correct on some level. So, with Facebook, we have become accustomed to supporting everything and everyone we even partially agree with, which in turn, encourages more sharing.

With the introduction of a ‘dislike’ button, a whole new component will be introduced to the platform.  A ‘dislike’ is a fundamentally different and stronger form of interaction, given that it’s new to Facebook and because it is negative. While there is already the option to express disagreement or berate someone with a comment, that takes time and effort. A dedicated ‘dislike button,’ like its counterpart, is more convenient, and thus more powerful.

On the surface, this feature appears to contradict the environment that Facebook has cultivated since 2008, but it taps into an entirely different side of users that has mostly gone unrepresented.    Besides, people love to share what things and ideas they disagree with as much as, if not more than, what they agree with.

Even if people do use it overwhelmingly as a way to disagree, rather than to express sympathy, it will not matter to Facebook. They will be able to collect and use all of this information regardless. And for the company, all this new data is great for business.

Take, for example, a case in which an election result appears on an individual’s News Feed. Let’s say ‘Candidate A’ wins in the election. In this scenario, everyone who supported ‘Candidate A’ will presumably ‘like’ the post, and those who supported ‘Candidate B’ will ‘dislike’ it. Directly from this, Facebook gets two separate cohorts of like-minded individuals and double the amount of data that they originally had.

Facebook could also use the data from each individual’s profile and cross-reference it with the data from everyone else in that same group. Then, they could create a highly probable data profile of that individual, based on  information the original person might have never shared in first place. This profile is invaluable to the advertisers, and thus quite valuable to Facebook

In this way, the dislike button is poised to provide a more complete overview of the personalities and tendencies of Facebook users, all the while giving them a feature they have been requesting for many years. In a completely backwards sounding scenario, both sides stand to benefit. It’s brilliant, because Facebook has found a way to build their data collection, while still appealing to the majority of its user base.

Well played, Zuckerberg, well played.