Facebook: All Sunshine and no Rain

If there is a Like Button, Why Not a Dislike Button?

Facebook saw its first light in college dorms and apparently the early mood was focused on being nice and friendly. As a result the entire software developed since its inception is about being artificially nice. You can only have “friends” and you can only “like”. As a matter of fact Zuckerberg and his team have explicitly banned “dislike” as a possible button on the social site that now has reportedly some 850 million users.

For quite a while now I have been uneasy with the artificiality of Facebook as a social media site with a future. It’s too much bubble gum without constructive grunge in my opinion. Obviously the “Like” button pleases product manufacturers and service providers, who would not like to see their brandname smeared with a button that allows to “dislike” and understandably Facebook does not want to cater to the negative this early in the internet advertising game.

Apparently in the same fertile environment of college dorm rooms, this irritating shortcoming is now being addressed with an app called “Enemygraph”.

Director of the emerging-media program at the University of Texas at Dallas and Bradley Griffith, a graduate student, created the app because they felt that a major flaw of the social media giant is that it’s all sunshine and no rain. Facebook encourages users to press the “like” button, but offers no way to signal which ideas, products, or people they disagree with. And “friend” is about the only kind of connection you can declare.

Real-world relationships are more complicated than that, so social networks should be too, they argue. And they are not alone—more than three million people have voted for a “dislike” feature on an online petition on Facebook.

The new App allows you to declare “enemies”.
The developers would have preferred to use “dislike” but the word is literally banned by the Facebook to prevent developers from creating a dislike button. Obviously the social network’s leaders want to keep the service friendly to advertisers who might object to users publicly scorning their products. And even though for now the App is condoned by Facebook’s head honchos, the developers expect it to be pulled the moment it will get wings of exposure.

Of course the issue of positive vs negative in social media has several faces and for now Facebook delivers a commoditized expression of you, whether as a person, a company or an institution. Just as it is dangerous to accept Hollywood movies as true life reflections, is it dangerous for a society to move into an exchange platform that has the worst qualities removed from it.  An Utopia of peace, love, decency and understanding is just that: Utopia. Nothing wrong with using the positive direction of Facebook as a Dr. Feelgood moment, as long as we realize that it’s a virtual reality and understand what’s happening when we use it.

I for one would love to see this new App gain traction as it points to a new form of social protest, one that could only happen in a virtual realm. In the physical world, scholars calling for social change might write up their suggestions, or stage symbolic protests, and hope their arguments prompt leaders to make changes. In online communities, it is possible to promote change by creating a new technical feature or service, or function as a watch dog as it did in the case of Twitter’s deleted Tweets with the App Undetweetable,  which put a spotlight on how persistent anything posted online can be—and how easy it is for outsiders to secretly pluck those messages to analyze them in various ways.

On the issue of Dislike buttons, I have always felt in the process of building a friendship, that it is more important to know what I disagree over with someone, then the opposite.

Dissonance creates conversation and ultimately hopefully progress, even though it sometimes appears to be mostly when other human means have been exhausted. Of course that is for most people too much of a very long distance view, whereby ignoring that long after the shorter term armed conflicts to settle issues have died without results, exhaustion of human and financial resources will ultimately create the “friendships” that our planet needs to move forward.

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