empathy

I’m Not Sure How To Feel About a DISLIKE Button


We've been asking Zuckerberg for it for so long. But what does "dislike" actually mean in Facebook-landia?



Good news, folks. Mark Zuckerberg, the man who started his empire with a website devoted to grading the attractiveness of his Harvard classmates, is concerned about Facebook users’ capacity to express themselves beyond the word “like.” He wants to have some way for us to show how we feel when one of our friend’s updates is more complicated than “So stoked for my new job” or “My 9-year-old just made me a sandwich, evidence of proper thumb function. What an amazing kid.”

Zuckerberg didn’t come out and say Facebook was making a “dislike” button. He did say Facebook  was ready to address the inadequacy of LIKE when it came to personal situations like death or illness or global situations like the Syrian refugee crisis. “Not every moment is a good moment,” Zuckerberg acknowledged, neglecting to add that for him, being a young, healthy billionaire made this almost untrue.

Isn’t it great to know Facebook is listening to us? We already knew they were listening to us in a creepy way, but that’s water under the bridge. I mean that they are listening to us in a good way, like the way your mom and dad listen to you, or the way your boyfriend listened to you before you slept with him more than eight times. Isn’t it a relief to know that the millions upon millions of times someone wrote “I wish I had a ‘dislike’ button!” weren’t just highly annoying demonstrations of their ability to distinguish a birth from a death, or a post about chemical weapons from a post about amazing toast? Isn’t it miraculous when the mosquito in your ear turns around and makes history?

I’m actually welling up a little! Which brings me to an important question. Let’s say there were in fact a “dislike” button and I used portions of the above paragraph for my status update. Would you LIKE it, because YOU LIKE it that even after experiencing magic of Tinder, the speed of the iPhone 6, and frequent daydreams about the way the iPencil might reimagine the pencil, I still have the capacity to find technological breakthroughs moving? Or would you DISLIKE, because it is sad that I am crying?

It makes you think.

Let’s imagine that indeed, as Zuckerberg hints, this new feature is actually not going to be a “dislike” button but instead some version of expressing solidarity or co-sadness or general “Awww gee that sounds super hard”-ness. How is that going to change the Facebook experience/our lives?

For example, I have a Facebook friend who loves Hillary Clinton. I myself am “feeling the Bern.” As it stands, every time either of us comments favorably about our respective favored candidate, the other comments “UGH.” (Incidentally, we have no other relationship to each other and have never met in person.)

Facebook is reluctant to introduce a “dislike” button out of fear that it will turn conflicts like this into a shitshow somehow unimaginably worse from the current shitshow of political threads on Facebook. So how might an empathy button allow me and my Hillary-loving friend to deepen, rather than sour, our “friend”-ship?  Imagine a world where with a mere click, I could convey the following: “I have empathy for you that you support a candidate that will never address the corporate structures running this country,” and conversely, she could “empathy button” me, communicating her genuine concern for me that I support a candidate who can never win, and that I would have to forever live with the guilt that I had basically elected Donald Trump as president.

Just as back in 2003 Mark Zuckerberg imagined a world beyond real-life interaction,  we are now compelled to imagine a world beyond “UGH.” Will you miss UGH? Would you wear a T-shirt that said “I REMEMBER UGH.”? And if so, may I ask how much you’d be willing to pay for it? What about a onesie that said “2Young2UGH?

Alas, none of us currently knows what kind of new button Facebook will introduce to the world, what it will say, what it will mean, what kinds of cute noises it might make. But we do know this: Mark Zuckerberg’s caring that we care can inspire people to have many, many meetings about what caring might look like, but it will never simplify caring. Which is to say that no matter how much we care, we will never care about anything more than how much stupider everyone else is than we are.

But we go on caring, because no matter how cynical we get, no matter how afraid we are of breaking down the barriers between ourselves and other people, technology will always be there for us, helping us to express the very depths of our humanity with increased functionality.

 

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