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We’ve all seen one those posts on Facebook before. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where someone is complaining about how bad their day is or they’re sharing some other tragic news. There’s an inherent dilemma we face as the reader of those posts: how do we let the person know that we read the post and sympathize without leaving a comment?*
It feels counterintuitive to Like a comment that says, “Today was the worst! Both kids threw up all over the place and then I was in a car accident!” Why would anyone Like a post like that? Wouldn’t it be the same as saying, “Yeah, your day sucks and I think that’s a good thing.” That sounds kind of sadistic, doesn’t it?. Yet we see Likes on those posts all the time (albeit fewer ones than other posts).
The Like button has morphed in meaning to include more than just agreeing or thinking something is good. In the case of these downer posts from the “woe is me” and “alas” people, Liking a post like this is almost a sign of sympathy or understanding. So it’s more like “yeah, your day sucks and I’m sorry…but I’m too lazy to say that in a comment.” Not everyone gets that though or they feel that the Like will be misunderstood so they don’t end up doing anything.
So it begs the question: why doesn’t Facebook have a Dislike button?
Its the same reason that Google+ (for all 5 of you who use it) has a +1 button and not a -1 button. It’s not positive or happy. It would be acknowledging and focusing on the bad in life. That’s too much negativity and they don’t want that on their sites.
This is actually smart on their part. Positive psychology would have us focus on all the great things in life so we can be more motivated to overcome any bad things that may come our way. Its the whole glass half full idea. Now before you go and think that Facebook is out there trying to boost everyone’s mood, they’re not. They are acting out of purely selfish motives. Any positive boost to your mood is a secondary effect to their main objective.
By reducing that negativity on their sites, Facebook and other companies are subtly encouraging you to come back and use their sites more. Your increased frequency and use allows them to extract more advertising dollars and get them to a bigger bottom line. So in the end it comes down to a sound business decision that uses psychological concepts as its basis.
Why else do you think there’s not a Dislike button on Facebook?
*Let’s face it, we prefer not to leave a comment unless we have something important, interesting, witty, or pertinent to say. It’s much easier to hit the Like button and move on which is why we Like more posts than comment on them.**
**Which is way I personally disagree with those posts that say “Like if you agree or leave a comment if you don’t.” There were a lot of these that popped up during the 2012 election where support for that’s person candidate of choice was Liked and the opponent was commented on so as to give the illusion of more popular support.