Faces and Facebook.


Frown, not thumbs down?

It was only a few weeks ago that we first heard about the new Facebook “dislike” button, and the proposition teased us with notions of a tool that would enable the world to deliver crushing blows to acquaintances far and wide informing them that their “latest status is shit”, in the words of our own MD.

But we’ve just seen an update, and it ain’t quite what we thought, it seems.

Zuckerberg said the new button would enable users to express empathy in those situations where a “like” just wasn’t appropriate, but, let’s face it, we all thought the thumbs down would give lazy trolls a new way to hate without having to use their words. Not cool, dude.

We pondered what it would mean for PR and marketing – would challenger brands actively court the opportunity to rub people up the wrong way, knowing the exposure may be good in the long run? I’ll admit, it made me nervous, but it certainly had the potential to be interesting for business.

The official video, unveiled last week, reveals no signs of a button expressing such succinct disapproval – rather, a series of emojis that deliver a (slightly) more subtle set of feelings. From last Friday, Facebook users in Spain and Ireland have been able to wow, love, or do the angry face at things appearing on their feed, in a bid to limit the “negative energy” that a dislike button would bring to the occasion, whilst satisfying the hunger to react in a way that isn’t just a “like”.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda mindful of the fact that even the most commonly used emojis, which is what Facebook has based its new function on, have to be labelled for the user. Yes, that’s right – underneath each little symbol sits a description of what you want to convey. I mean, shouldn’t that just be clear from the picture?!

Apparently not. Apparently, it’s necessary to spell out that a face with tilted eyebrows, a frown and a tear means “sad”. At least we’ll all be clear on that then, if and when it’s rolled out worldwide. Yet, still, the new tool presents interesting challenges for brands – will the function exist for business pages? I should think so. Will we be able to “yay” or “wow ” at new products? I hope so.

Time will tell, but for now I can’t help thinking of the parallels with Poe’s Law and the extension of it that applies here. In all seriousness, it’s widely appreciated that tone isn’t something that comes across quite so clearly in what we read online and the new function could make us even more reliant on symbols, not words. Really, how on earth can we tell what anything on the internet really means if it isn’t qualified by a winky face? 😉