Facebook is coming up with a button to indicate you empathize with a person’s status, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced. (GIF: Facebook/Yahoo Health)
Facebook announced on Tuesday (Sept. 15) that it would be releasing a “dislike” button — in some form, at least.
During an in-person Q&A, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told attendees that Facebook is working on a new button, though it won’t be an actual “dislike” button, per se. “We didn’t want to just build a ‘dislike’ button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts,” Zuckerberg explained. “That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create.”
Zuckerberg said the need is really for people to be able to express empathy: “If you are sharing something that is sad, whether it’s something in current events like the refugee crisis that touches you or if a family member passed away, then it might not feel comfortable to ‘like’ that post.”
Fans have been pushing for a “dislike” button of some sort for years. But how will actually getting it in some form impact us?
Experts say it will be overwhelmingly be positive.
“It will allow for a more congruent emotional experience, on the part of whoever is posting as well as those who are commenting,” licensed clinical psychologist Erika Martinez, PsyD, tells Yahoo Health. “It brings reality into the picture, that things aren’t always beautiful, fun, and positive.”
But it will be especially meaningful to posters who might be going through a tough time — such as the loss of a loved one, job, or relationship, media psychologist Pamela Rutlege, PhD, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, tells Yahoo Health.
Why? Sharing a negative emotional experience and getting supportive feedback from others can be validating. “It allows the person experiencing the emotions the opportunity to make sense out of what he or she is feeling and to begin to frame it in a way that facilitates grieving,” she says. And actually seeing the support on Facebook can help remind the person of the social support they have to work through a tough time.
This new feature will also create big opportunities for nonprofits and social causes looking for support for serious issues, Rutledge says, since “liking” a post on sex trafficking, domestic violence, or another social issue often feels inappropriate.
But Atlanta-based psychologist Jared DeFife, PhD, tells Yahoo Health there is a potential downside: The button may keep someone focused on their pain and negative experiences to the point where they only post about bad moments and thoughts.
“You can almost crave the comfort and reassurance that comes along with the sympathy,” he explains, though he adds that he thinks the button is a good idea overall.
Experts agree that Facebook is smart to focus more on empathy because an actual “dislike” button creates the potential for online bullying and negativity.
Once the feature rolls out, licensed clinical psychologist Alicia Clark, PsyD, tells Yahoo Health that you can probably expect to see a little more negativity and less “Facebook perfect” posts in your news feed: “I think people might be more willing to put up more negative, vulnerable events in their life,” she says.
When will we get it? Facebook isn’t saying just yet, although Zuckerberg says his company is “very close” to having a test version of the new button. “We’re working on this and hopefully we will deliver something that meets the needs of our community,” he said in the Q&A.
Have a personal health story to share? We want to hear it. Tell us at YHTrueStories@yahoo.com.