Facebook was launched in February 2004 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Probably not many people know this, but the ‘like’ button was introduced on Facebook only in 2009.
Vimeo, the video-sharing site, was probably the first social media platform to introduce the ‘like’ button in November 2005. YouTube introduced the ‘like’ button in 2010.
Initially, the ‘like’ button was not liked!
Initially, there was opposition to even the like button on Facebook. It was argued that it was wrong to ‘like’ people’s sad statuses (for example, the death of a pet or that of a parent or someone losing their job, etc). The opposition to the ‘like’ button further grew when people began to use Facebook as a source of their daily news.
Is it fair to ‘like’ a news item on a road accident? Clearly not! At the same time, users need to be given some means of expressing their appreciation of the quality of the news item posted on the platform.
The debate around the ‘dislike’ button
Towards the end of 2014, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that although there was considerable demand for a ‘dislike’ button, Facebook would not be introducing the ‘dislike’ button since, in their opinion, it would spread negativity.
Some users of the platform pointed out correctly that the ‘dislike’ button would encourage trolling, thereby creating a toxic environment. Advertisers, too, were concerned. They feared that the button would be used to dislike their products.
But it was acknowledged that a button to convey a different emotion would be useful for Facebook to learn about the likes and dislikes of the platform’s users — data that would be invaluable for its advertising business. Hence, they expanded and added more reaction buttons.
Dislike button on YouTube
In 2010, YouTube moved from star-based rating and introduced the “like/dislike” button. And ever since that, the social mediascape has not been the same.
YouTube also had a rethink on the ‘dislike’ button. In Oct 2021, it announced that it was tweaking the ‘dislike’ button on the platform — the button itself would be retained, but the dislike count itself — would not be public. The ‘dislike’ count would only be visible to the creator.
YouTube felt that this measure was necessary to ensure cordial and respectful interactions, on the platform, between the content creators and viewers. This was critical for sustaining the overall ecosystem of the creator economy. Making the ‘dislike’ count private would shield the creators from harassment and dislike attacks. Dislike attacks are targeted campaigns to artificially cause the number of dislikes for a creator’s videos to rise.
What purpose does it serve on Social Media?
This protection is especially useful for the smaller creators and those in the initial stages of their content creation journey. Such creators are often maliciously targeted by increasing the number of dislikes for their videos. Making the dislike count private will enable such newbies and small creators to assess the performance of the content put out by them and take steps to improve while being shielded from any targeted attack to discredit their content.
For newbie creators just beginning to find their feet in the booming creator economy, it pays to learn the tropes with organisations such as TagMango that specialise in helping creators gain financial freedom. TagMango helps them to gain control over their earnings by hosting workshops and selling courses on the platform. Creators can just focus on what they do best, create content, and not depend on brands, algorithms, and platforms to maximize their earnings.
The ‘dislike’ button and the plus side
This change has also had a noticeable impact on the ‘How to’ and ‘Crafts’ categories of videos on the platform. According to a study conducted by the data platform ThoughtLeaders, the above video categories were the ones that were most impacted by dislikes. The study found that although the average total engagement (likes+dislikes) for the videos in these categories increased with the introduction of the dislike button, dislikes increased faster than likes. These insights were arrived at based on data collected over the past decade.
Other interesting insights from the study were that brand sponsors, on average, saw 14% fewer dislikes and that gaming received the lowest proportion of dislikes compared to total engagement (2.8% dislikes).
This issue of showing the like/dislike counts is contentious. Instagram, too, for some time, hid the like counts of posts on its platform. The rationale behind the move was that showing the count led to unhealthy competition among the platform’s users.
The count was soon restored because it acts as a powerful feedback mechanism. This helps the creator to learn what is right/wrong with the content posted. The counts are also used by the platform as indicators for algorithmic ranking.
The users on various social media sites benefit when the counts are public. It helps them choose between good and bad content. The platform’s users have no other means, apart from the like/dislike counts, to assess the quality of the content.
Retaining the dislike button can also be said to promote the cause of greater transparency on the internet. Else, users will only have to rely on recommendation algorithms, which are notorious for not being objective. When users have the choice to make their likes/dislikes known, it helps the other users on the platform engage with the good content and overlook the bad. This needs to be balanced out against shielding the creators from motivated and malicious dislike campaigns and online harassment.