Recently, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg announced his plan to add an alternative button to the “like” button, which would allow users to express empathy for more emotionally sensitive posts.
His decision, he explains, stems from Facebook users expressing their wishes to show support to friends going through a tough time, which they do not feel they can adequately do by clicking a button that equates a feeling of happiness attached to the post.
There is a sense of uneasiness about ‘liking’ someone’s hardships publicly, and Zuckerberg seems to think that this new empathy button will add a new option for users to feel comfortable and show clear support.
This new empathy button seems to be an unnecessary addition of indirectness to a site that already diminishes real contact.
The concerned Facebook users, who feel uncomfortable liking a status informing them of a friend’s troubles, simply do not have to click ‘like’ on the post, and they will not have to worry about sending a wrong message.
If users do feel the need to show their support or lend a helping hand to the posting friend in need, then reaching out in the form of a message is certainly still a viable option.
In fact, sending a message, calling the person on the phone, or even, at the very least, commenting on the post itself, are all ways in which a user can show support to a friend through Facebook without the use of an empathy button.
These pathways certainly seem to be a more believable show of support than the clicking of a word.
Actually, by adding this new option for users to interact with each other, the support given to a user who sets a status during a hard time will most likely decrease quite a bit.
By giving the option to simply “express empathy,” Zuckerberg is basically giving users an easy way out, a way in which they do not have to truly interact with their friend at all.
A friend who may have previously reached out in a message to talk through a problem with a friend may, upon seeing this more easy option, just click the button instead and feel that the job is done.
An empathy button will just make friends who feel obligated to, in some way, help a friend through a tough time, be able to do so in a much more easy, and infinitely less helpful, way.
I think I speak for most users of Facebook when I say that if I had to choose between my friends supporting me through a Facebook message, calling me on the phone or a simply clicking the ‘empathy’ button to show they acknowledge my hardship, then I would certainly choose the more personal option.
In fact, having twenty people click a button that somehow implies they in someway understand my situation would not make me feel anywhere near as supported as one friend actually contacting me with their own words, instead of using Mark Zuckerberg’s automated button to show their support.
On the other hand, adding this new button does quite consistently further the effect Facebook has had on our society as a whole.
For years, Zuckerberg has been further enabling us to hide behind a screen and portray ourselves in the ways we want the world to see us, and to mask the ugly parts with funny shared dog videos or smiling family portraits.
Now, we can even show our support for tough times through using a button, further discouraging meaningful human interaction.
Once again, Zuckerberg gives us an unnecessary way out.