It has happened to every Facebook user at one time or another: that awkward moment when a friend posts an extremely sad or emotional message that you sympathize with, but don’t necessarily want to “like” for fear of making it seem like you’re happy about their emotional turmoil. At a company event in California on Thursday, attendees experimented with a “sympathize” button that would be a more accurate description of what people feel when they “like” emotional posts.
“It would be, 'five people sympathize with this,' instead of 'five people ‘like’ this,'" said Facebook engineer Dan Muriello, according to The Huffington Post. "Which of course a lot of people were — and still are — very excited about. But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product. Yet."
The idea was presented at what Facebook calls a “hackathon” — an event where the company tries new ideas for the social media site. The “dislike” button, for which many Facebook users have campaigned for quite some time now, will not likely be added to the list of buttons available on the site. That’s because Facebook would rather users focus on positive interactions rather than negative ones. As of right now, “like,” “share,” and “comment” are the only available options when responding to any given Facebook post. The fear, one could assume, is that a “dislike” button would possibly foster bullying and body image issues that some teens and young adults already experience as a result of their interactions on the site. In those situations, a “dislike” button could have some severe mental health consequences.
Earlier this year, engineer Bob Baldwin explained to The Huffington Post the thinking behind not allowing for the possibility of a “dislike” button. “Actions on Facebook tend to focus on positive social interactions,” Baldwin said. “Like is the lightest-weight way to express positive sentiment. I don't think adding a light-weight way to express negative sentiment would be that valuable. I know there are times when it'd make sense, like when a friend is having a rough day, or got into a car accident like my sister yesterday (she's OK!). For these times, a nice comment from a friend goes a long way.”
In any case, the “sympathize” button was apparently a popular feature at this week’s hackathon. Though no one at Facebook was able to confirm whether its integration into the site would be a possibility, one spokesman told The Huffington Post that “some of [Facebook’s] best ideas come from hackathons.” So, you never know.