Jack Barber / Website Design

Likes, Favourites, Dislikes - can social media ever facilitate proper social interaction?

Of course, Betteridge's law of headlines states that the answer to my question is of course 'no'. And in this case the law is, in my opinion, proved correct.

But perhaps I should take a minute or two to explain my thoughts a little further.

Today Facebook has announced that it will be shortly rolling out a 'Dislike' button. According to Mark Zuckerberg himself, what users want is the capacity to express empathy online.

For years, social media has, on the whole, enabled only positive feedback (not including the capacity to 'comment'). We can 'Like' posts on Facebook, 'Favourite' tweets and Instagram images. The only mainstream social media I can think of which enables any form of 'down voting' is YouTube which offers users both a 'Like' and a 'Dislike' button.

But do these single click interfaces really serve as a proper social interaction? I'm not sure.

Does the term 'Dislike' really communicate empathy? Or is it more likely to be used as a way of trolling - being purposefully controversial with the aim of provoking a response?

Can a single click, or tap, really express meaningful feeling?

Facebook Like Button

Those who know me will know I am a man of few words - particularly where emotions are concerned.

But even for me, the idea of attempting to share in anything other than the most trivial of interactions cannot be achieved by clicking a button on a website.

Human interaction is not the same as software rules. Facebook offers the opportunity to 'Like' and soon to 'Dislike'. This is a binary choice - it's a yes or no, a 1 or 0.

Our feelings, emotions and interactions are so much richer, with subtle nuance and detail shared through expression or tone or timing.

Perhaps I'm becoming too cynical to really understand these changes in human interaction. But it is my suggestion that along with an creating an increasing dependency on technology and social media services, those responsible for building these systems are at risk of seriously degrading human interaction and limiting our capacity to show real care, real empathy and real emotion.