Facebook users have been asking the social media giant for years to add a “Dislike” button. It’s pretty clear by now that if Facebook was ever pondering the “Dislike” button, it would already have been here a long time ago. However, it does look like Facebook does acknowledge the need for users to express sadness, when a Facebook engineer recently said that they have informally tested a “Sympathize” button instead.
Pretty much any Facebook user has been caught in the dilemma on whether to click “Like” or not on a friend’s status update at one time or another. A status update like, “Today is the one year anniversary of my dog’s death,” can cause a friend to pause and not know what to do. Do they click “Like” because their friend is cherishing thoughts and memories of their favorite pet? Or, if they click “Like,” will they just be “liking” the fact that their dog died. Hopefully by adding a way of sympathizing and expressing one’s feelings it will alleviate some of those awkward online moments.
The second Facebook engineer to break the news was, Dan Muriello, during one of Facebook’s hackathons last Thursday. The hackathon experiment tested a way of expressing feelings by changing the “Like” button to “Sympathize”. If feeling “sad” or feeling “depressed” is chosen from Facebook’s fixed-list of emoticons when a user is updating their status, their friends would receive the “Sympathize” button instead of “Like” button.
The hackathon gave Facebook staff a chance at trying out some new ideas as an alternative way to express negative feelings while offering friendly support. Hackathons are held to allow Facebook employees to explore new and innovative ideas that they normally won’t have a chance to explore. Many ideas never make it out of a hackathon so there is no guarantee that Facebook will be expanding the options anytime soon. What Muriello did say was that testing the “Sympathize” button was very well received by those attending this Facebook hackathon.
Muriello said that user’s notifications would also change from “Like” to “Sympathize” to notify the user how many people expressed their sadness at his/her post. According to the Facebook engineer the test even excited some of the staff, but in the end it was decided that the timing to launch the “Sympathize” button was not yet here.
Muriello did his speaking during Facebook’s “Compassion Research Day.” The public event is a day where Facebook researchers, the University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University share findings on human behavior on Facebook.
Facebook says that some of their best ideas have come from hackathons. Even if some of the new and innovative ideas they produce never get deployed, as it offers the staff a chance to “think different” on how Facebook can improve their service.
Some of Facebook’s most successful current features were born at hackathons in the past. A few of the hackathon ideas that have made it to deployment in the past have been Timeline profile pages, the friend suggestions, and Facebook Chat. However the biggest success to come out of a hackathon remains to be the “Like” button.
It certainly looks as though Facebook users will never get their highly requested “Dislike” button. However, with Facebook testing a new “Sympathize” button it looks like they’ve finally acknowledge their user’s need to interact with their friends and offer them comfort and support when they need it. While if and when the deployment ever arrives will remain to be seen, in the meantime users can just “sympathize” that it’s not already here.
By Brent Matsalla