Hate is a Strong Word

Rawksta'hr got me started on this one. When I started thinking about this, I didn't realize that there was this much to contemplate. Just goes to show, I suppose. I had set the whole thing aside but now the advent of Google+ makes it seem newly relevant.

It's is oft lamented by Facebook users that there is no "Dislike" button. Users of the social media giant can express their approval of everything from sports scores to vacation plans to articles in the New York Times with a single mouse click. There is no similarly easy way to express one's disapproval and a vocal plurality of users have been clamoring for team Zuckerburg to add one for years now.

They shouldn't and I'll tell you why.

As the web goes, Facebook is a pretty polite place. I'm not saying that Facebook is a land of courtly manners but, by the standards of the internet at large, it's fairly civil. Adding a "Dislike" button will only encourage trolling by codifying a method of psychological bullying. 13 year-olds with ego problems should not get a 30 billion dollar company's help in ostracizing their fellows by giving them a one-click method of voicing their disapproval.

Pictured - A Troll Ass

Advocates of the "Dislike" button hugely underestimate the veracity of internet trolling culture. A "Dislike" Facebook is one on which emotionally stunted individuals will constantly post racist, misogynist, violent or inflammatory material just to see how many "Dislikes" they can accrue. Some will point out that such statements would already violate the FB ToS and could be removed by administrators. Given, however that the turnaround time for such things can be weeks or months and given the increase in such statements that a "Dislike" button would foster, chocking it up to the ToS doesn't seem all that practical.

In the culture at large, positive thoughts can be taken at face value. When viewing someone's photographs, eating their food or touring their home, it's quite enough to say, "This is good; I like this." Obversely, when one manifests disdain, one is usually expected to explain why. "I don't like this; it's too spicy," for instance. The "Dislike" would upend that social norm,* giving any asshole in your circle of friends the ability to censure without reason, to express their disapproval without having to articulate it. Nobody with a functioning vocabulary is at all impaired by not having a "Dislike" button. There's a comment box. If you dislike something, you can express that in words.

Proponents of the "Dislike" function will point out that one can "Like" that my grandmother died. That would be an asshole thing to do but, since most people don't post "My grandmother died," they post something like, "My grandmother died after eighty-seven long happy years. Please keep my family in your prayers," if someone were to "Like" that, one would presume that it was a show of support. A simple solution to this, by the way is to allow users to disable the "Like" button.

As I've mentioned in the past, there are still a lot of opportunities for communication and a lot of methods of communication on the internet that are still coming to fruition and I'd be a fool to simply dismiss a new angle for expressing one's self. The problem with a "Dislike" button is that it would not be a method of expression. Instead, it would be a method to dodge expression, a way to simply belch a half-formed, and quite rude, non-thought out into the public sphere and I don't see that doing anyone any good. To sum up, kids and assholes will abuse it. Adults don't need it. Let's not bother.

*I'm usually all for the upending of social norms. On the other hand, I'm also a fan of civility. I don't see a contradiction here. Social norms should only be discarded if they are, in fact bad, and I don't see that being the case here.


DaddyFantastic said...

i think youtube is a prime example of negative comments on a mainstream site. i've never seen so much hatred and bigotry over someone making noodles in my life. the "anonymous" aspect of the internet makes it "ok" to comment that someone's culture eats donkey balls because they're from the southern part of their country, or practice a different religion. i don't know if it's a direct reflection of youtube having a "thumbs down" button, but parallels are interesting.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, don't give the trolls any more ammunition that they already have