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Will Social Dislike Buttons Be the Answer?

What started as a place to share birthday wishes and reconnect with old college friends has become oh-so-much more. Now, many people rely on social media to gather new information on current hot topics, see up-to-date information on unraveling events, and essentially stay in touch with the rest of the world.  

Social media has started movements, impacted candidacies, and shared injustices on a global scale. It has become the main way for the younger generation to be informed activists and citizens.   

With so much important content being taken in every second of every day, even the smallest change to social media functionality can have a butterfly effect on how we experience information. So, when platforms like Twitter start considering a social dislike button, it’s no small feat to consider the potential ramifications of the update. Will it help cut down on spreading dangerous content? Or will it damage the overall user experience? 

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 What are social dislike buttons?  

From dislike buttons to angry/sad reactions to downvotes, different platforms have different versions, designs, names, and abilities for disliking a social post. But the general concept is the same – offer a way for users to communicate that they are frustrated, offended, or unimpressed by a piece of content.   

What types of social dislike buttons are currently being used?  

Twitter is currently testing a version of a dislike button with a limited rollout for 10% of Android users. While this functionality isn’t widely available, Twitter has said that they are exploring the option and how it would positively and negatively impact the user experience on the platform.  

Facebook hasn’t committed to a downvote or dislike button but has been using “reactions” to show engagement past likes for a while. You have the option to use a sad or angry face emoji to communicate when you don’t like a piece of content or comment. While using the negative reactions doesn’t cause consequences for the posted content, it shows the general public reaction to posts and allows you to be more specific with your opinion when engaging with content.  

YouTube has always had a dislike button available. The reputation of this one feels less personal than other platforms since the option has been widely available to easily show whether the video offered high-quality content.   

Reddit has thrived on an upvote/downvote system that directly impacts the order in which others see content in a subreddit group. Because Reddit has such specific and respected rules and etiquette, the current system fits for showcasing high-quality content and hiding poor or tasteless content. This also applies to the comment section, so even the discussions are monitored and ordered accordingly.  

The argument for social dislike buttons and downvotes 

It sets up a public system for monitoring hateful content. With millions of posts every day, it’s impossible to quickly catch, monitor, or take down every post of fake news, dangerous conspiracy, or damaging hate speech without community help. A social dislike button would offer a quick way to flag inappropriate or offensive content.   

It acts as quality control. As with the way Reddit uses a downvote, a social dislike or downvote button can eventually hide content that doesn’t impress or delight users and push great content to the top. This prioritizes content that has been widely reviewed as useful, honest, or entertaining, so the content experience is improved.   

They cut down on the ability to post hateful content without consequence. Thinking about posting that troll or bully post? Think again. Public disapproval is a strong thing – the first time you post something hateful and it has a strong negative reaction from your online community, you may decide to tone it down and think before you type.  

It demands better content from companies. This should be happening already, but unfortunately, some companies will need the kick in the pants to improve their communication. Those phony, bot-created ads will be a thing of the past – if a company wants ads and posts to get serious reach, they won’t do so with lazy or bad content. Users have more of a say in what content they see, and it causes companies to think harder about what they put out there. Eventually, this leads to the ad and social strategies that don’t just target as many as possible but only reach out to those who have shown interest in great content. This improves the user experience for everyone.   

The argument against social dislike buttons and downvotes

Likes keep you on the platform. Dislikes drive you away. As a society, we’ve gotten addicted to likes. So much so that platforms like Instagram have taken steps to make likes and post engagement less noticeable on the app. Since likes are directly impacting our view of self-worth, dislikes would have the opposite effect. Social dislikes on someone’s personal social content could be taxing and even detrimental to mental health and self-perception.   

It will also train people to not spend time or post content on the platform, out of fear that they may experience a negative reaction. This lack of engagement lowers the overall quality of the platform.  

They could negatively impact social algorithms. If social dislikes or downvotes are set up to affect the feed algorithm, they can significantly skew (and therefore limit) your information. If you “like” one type of content and “dislike” other types of content, this creates a one-sided view where fake news and extremism thrive.   

It may open a new avenue for bullying. The very practice that social media companies are considering to cut down on bullying can also act as a new form of bullying. A dislike is a simple way to insult a piece of content or a post, so platforms should assume that users will leverage it as such.  

Something as small as adding one new button to social posts may seem small, but if you consider the global domination social media holds on news, media, opinions, and personal connections, it’s clear that social dislike buttons impact self-perception, hateful speech, mental health, politics, and free press. That’s no small conversation. What do you think? 

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