Facebook Likes

Image“Likes” as a feedback tool were developed by Facebook back in 2007 but were only introduced on its site in February 2008. There is some controversy regarding who between Facebook and Friendfeed arrived at the tool first. Even though Friendfeed had launched their button by late 2007, Facebook sources comment that this event was not on their radar. According to them, they were developing a tool with the prototype name “Awesome” that in 2007 Zuckerberg baptized into “like.” What an awesome coincidence, don’t you, like agree. Facebook’s help page states, “the “like” button is a way to give positive feedback or to connect with things you care about on Facebook.” But if you googled the term “Facebook likes” , it’s more likely that you would get pages and pages of links to websites purporting to sell this online commodity. Whatever it once was, the “like” is presently just another easily automated advertising gimmick. It has become Mark Zuckerberg’s weak response to Google search. The touted “positive feedback” tool is a pitiful botnet tool, used to substitute for opinion on the web.

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It’s marketed as feedback but functions more like astroturf. An easily consumed social approval sticker that exports life’s fascination with high school-esque popularity contests onto the online sphere. Board members love data, but this type of gimmick inflates the misinformation balloon, not the relevant data balloon.

Netizens on Facebook, who I assume have more than the dual “like” or ignore reaction to the average Facebook post, are forced into this situation where they have to settle for a very limited voice. Facebook and other sites that only have a “like” button do their users a disservice by not including more options. Youtube is a notable exception to this flaw as it includes both “like” and “dislike” options in its content feedback tools.

Maybe the reason why Facebook wont add a “dislike” button is because they think the first thing we’ll do with it is “dislike” all those ads they send us. The problem with Facebook is its coupling of the “like” feedback mechanism with its advertising interests. To them these are not mere “likes”, but reasons to justify their advertising costs to their clientele. They’re trying too hard to “own” the tone and output of their user-base. I strongly believe that this is a mistake in their strategy. Having too much value concentrated on this one tool restricts the company’s ability to play with and even evolve its feedback options. The money it has tied into the like button acts like inertia by preventing the company from evolving. As a social network, Facebook should be more driven towards achieving harmony with its users, who are its primary asset than with impressing corporations who are only interested in Facebook’s users to begin with. Without a billion of us happily clicking away and spending all of our time online there would be no Facebook.

Facebook needs to change the way it treats our opinions. Their policy of not offering a “dislike” option is outright dictatorial. They are like a despot who acts of his own free will without regard for what you “the people” want and at the end of the day expects you to blindly “like” him. What I’d like to know is the name of the social scientist that ever approved of this way of treating people. It’s downright  offensive that this website thinks we are all reducible to this one opinion. That by their assessment of us, we are the idiots that “like” all the garbage they drag through our news-feeds every day.

According to a New York Times article, Facebook has its “like” button integrated in over 9 million other web sites worldwide. This further distribution of its only feedback button is a further attempt by the company to not so subtly manipulate us into liking what we may otherwise detest.

This is a further instance of Facebook’s incapacity to tolerate alternate viewpoints in its expanding user base. How can Facebook’s operators honestly expect all of these different sites to present content that a user’s response to would always only be “liking” it? It is seriously impractical for a company of its size to have such a naive assessment of its user’s opinions.

As a user on Facebook viewing pages of content daily, I ask them; where is the way to give negative feedback? Where do I click if I “dislike”this.

How are the various companies that employ these feedback tools on their own websites going to improve if they have no room for criticism. And how presumptuous and arrogant can Facebook’s management be to allow this “yes man” only attitude to persist. Their attitude towards anything they perceive as “negative” is in direct contrast to what experience shows. Very often it’s the negative feedback that is the most important to an organization. This is the kind of feedback a company can learn from. It is well known that people and organizations learn mainly from their failures. By withholding this negative feedback option from its user base and also its advertising clientele , Facebook is robbing the former of its voice and the latter of its opportunity to become better. My advice to Facebook is this: Take a chance on negativity. Not everything you guys do is right, so why not give us an opportunity to tell you when you’re screwing up.

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