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Facebook hopes to promote empathy with new button

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, said in a public Q&A that an alternative to the like button will be added to Facebook.

“I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years…today is the day where I actually get to say that we’re working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it,” Zuckerberg said on Sept. 15.

Zuckerberg said in an interview with USA Today, “It’s important to give people more options than just ‘like’ to help express empathy and sympathy.”

Zuckerberg said in the public Q&A that this like button alternative will not be a dislike button per se, but rather a way to express empathy when someone posts something that isn’t happy.

Division chair of the humanities and social sciences, Jacob Stratman, said that this actually will not help add empathy to Facebook. Stratman explained that the dislike button would just increase the amount of sympathy. He said that effectively showing empathy requires face-to-face interaction because empathy is immersion into another reality, suffering with someone and being present.

“Oxytocin is released when we make eye contact and reach out to someone in person, according to neuroscience research,” psychologist and Globe and Mail contributor, Susan Pinker, said.

Pinker also spoke of neuropeptide, also called “the cuddle chemical,” which helps lower stress and is released when a person is close enough to nurture or be nurtured.

During Breakaway two weeks ago, Stratman gave a talk on empathy. Abby Acker, freshman engineering major, said that Stratman explained “empathy as being willing to sacrifice, to be with and feel with someone in their pain.”

Acker believes that adding a dislike button to Facebook is a good idea because it would allow her to show someone that she is “really feeling pain with them and often the like button just seems to not make sense.” Also if a person does no live close, it is an “easy way to support someone going through a hard time,” Acker said.

Social media makes showing empathy hard in general, Stratman said. He said that social media mistakes presence on social media for physical presence, but empathy requires emersion, which is much more than being online.