Tess Vigeland: The Facebook “like” button has its lovers and its haters. We, of course, hope you go and like US. But recently there’s been a movement to add another button to the mix.
Commentator Rob Walker does NOT like that idea.
Rob Walker: A growing number of Facebook users want a “dislike” button. You know how you’re supposed to “like” things on the site? This lets you do the opposite. Click to express disapproval of a link or picture your friend has posted. In fact, there’s a “dislike button” page on Facebook, and more than three million people have liked it.
I’m not one of them, because I dislike this idea. In fact, I hate it. I certainly think Facebook could be improved, and frankly I might “like” it if the site disappeared tomorrow. But one-click disapproval would not help, because this misguided idea completely misunderstands Facebook.
Facebook has nothing to do with honesty, genuine self-expression or reality. It’s a place to present, promote and receive approval for an idealized persona. That’s why everybody looks better in their three-year-old profile picture than they do in real life, and status updates tout professional successes, enviable lifestyle moments and the latest feats of adorability of toddlers and pets. What they’re not about is screwing up at work, gaining 10 pounds or how you’re sick of your friend’s adorable toddler.
Facebook is a gated suburb. It’s sterile, controlled, happy. It’s made of ticky tacky. And that’s the point! Like the ‘burbs, people have flocked to Facebook precisely because it’s a cheerier version of reality. Rallying for a “dislike” button is like complaining that your neighborhood association won’t let you sponsor a protest in your front yard or open a nudist commune. You’re in the wrong place for that. There’s no shortage of ways to express displeasure online, and nobody has to spend their entire Web existence among the manicured identity facades of Facebook.
You might be annoyed by a friend’s link about politics or the Red Sox — but I can pretty much guarantee that responding with a dislike would not start a meaningful conversation.
Besides, Facebook — in its infinite quest to create a ’50s sitcom version of Internet life — has already given you a very suburbanesque tool to deal with such offenses: Just click on the button that says “hide.”
Vigeland: Rob Walker is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. He is on Facebook and you can “like” him at the page “Consumed.” While you’re there, please… Ummm… Like my new fan page, too.
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