The Like Button

Note: this blog post is “in the raw” as it’s written in a hurry, and its content may be edited later for corrections, additions, retractions or anything that fits the passing whims of the author.

Recently there have been words in the press about Facebook’s new and upcoming Unlike button, which differs greatly from earlier rumours of similar Unlike button solutions, many of them riddled with viruses and whatnot, in that this one is in fact confirmed by Zuckerberg himself (though it’s still unclear exactly how it’s going to be implemented). But what will that button mean for the average user? And come to think about it, what indeed does the already existing Like button mean? In my experience, that depends on the person you ask. What I do know is that if you ask me, it means something like this:

  • I agree with what you said
  • I think what you said was funny
  • I’m glad you shared that
  • I was totally moved by that
  • I sympathise with you and/or what you shared
  • I’m sorry for your loss
  • I’d just like to let you know I noticed and read your post and that I care enough to press this button

The meaning of the Like button must be seen in light of the context. If someone writes something sad, such as “my dog died today”, a Like would mean something along the lines of “I feel for you”, and not, as some people seem to think, “I’m absolutely thrilled that your mutt finally croaked”.

Similarly, an Unlike button would mean something negative relating to the post in question.

  • I disagree with what you said
  • I’m really not interested
  • I don’t like that you shared this at all
  • I’ve notified the police, you’re SO going to jail for this

In that vein, clicking Unlike would be like a frown or a sneer directed at the poster, and to use it on a post saying “my dog died today” would seem to convey the message “I don’t care about your stupid dog or your obsessive, irrational attachment to it,” or “get a life and post something interesting and funny instead,” or both.

But since the understanding of the meaning of the Like button differs so much from person to person, the understanding of the Unlike button probably will, too. There’s the possibility that in order to be completely clear about what we mean when we click that button, we’d need one button for every possible meaning, just like we have Emoji (emoticon or “smiley”) for every single emotion any given human being is capable of, and then some, with lots to spare, which in turn would most likely end up being even more confusing.

And would anyone click Like to that?

My point here isn’t whether or not there is call or room for an Unlike button — I can certainly see that it has merit — but rather that we ought first to agree properly on the meaning of the one button that we already have.

And to build on that, I believe this all goes for most other social networking sites as well, not just Facebook.


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