— On Comms Design. From London

Standardising emotion

I am not sure whether to rejoice that I might not be seeing all those inane responses to people’s Facebook posts and that these responses will be confined to neatly recorded smilies or hearts, or to be annoyed that we are coming closer and closer to an ultimate standardisation of people’s reactions (i.e. emotions) on social media.

This is of course about this, the news that the world is not getting a dislike button but rather a plethora of smilies, hearts and other icons that will enable us to not outright hate something but rather express a wider range of feelings.

The annoying thing about this is that we WERE able to record a wider range of emotions by leaving comments that could say “I partly agree with this” or “This is an immense and stinking pile of horse shit” (by which the commentator would not have simply described what he saw in the picture). The point of Likes was to aggregate the overall sentiment on the post, so it was mostly a scale thing, a way of measuring overall impact. People were asking for a dislike button mostly because sentiment analysis is so bad that 500k comments saying “I hate this” would be collapsed into something too small to compete with, say, 100 likes. Nobody campaigned for a “I kinda like this but I am not sure” button. There was a lot of conversation around Meh, but that was it.

The trouble with standardising responses is that people have a tendency to replace actual nuance with that standard. Remember when “In a relationship” had become the ultimate badge of commitment? Standardising means simplifying and we know the human brain loves a good simplification, but somehow it does not feel like we should be trying to simplify things when it comes to points of view or emotions. People should have to make an effort to express exactly what they are feeling because using smilies just impoverishes the conversation.

I want a dislike button. Because we need to be able to say no in a VERY loud voice to some things. I do not think, however, that we should be happy with being given a Facebook-approved list that bridges the gap between like and dislike. We mind find ourselves in a couple of years expressing a lot less.