EDITORIAL

The Dislike button and politics

In a world increasingly dominated by various things we dislike, besides the plenty of those that suit our tastes, the “Dislike” button will soon become a reality. The announcement made recently by Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, that the worldwide-spread corporation he leads would test a dislike button (more likely an empathy button), created an endless wave of emotion and impatience among the users of the social networks, who were yearning for such a tool for many years.
“The intent is to give users the ability to express empathy because not every moment is a good moment,” Zuckerberg said.
Immediately after the announcement regarding the implementation of this button, the online environment got loaded with articles, opinions, analyses and studies concerning the impact this new tool might have upon brands, companies and the business environment, once consumers are granted a chance to express by this tool their other than positive emotions and opinions regarding these products and marketing campaigns.
As for the business climate, the unanimous perception so far is that the “Dislike” button will certainly have a major impact and will revolution the way consumers interact with certain brands that may be found on Facebook. Providing social media users the possibility to express their disagreement, disappointment, frustration or other negative emotions by the symbolic gesture represented by positioning our mouse on the thumb down symbol will certainly write a brand new page in the history of online marketing, with direct impact on offline marketing as well, but also on the sales of brands and on the turnovers of companies producing them.
As Facebook users, we all use the “Like” button to express admiration, agreement, approval and respect to the person who posts something or to the topic of his message. On the other hand, we have all experienced the pleasure caused by the feeling that the things we have posted are liked by several persons or that they matter to the persons who have rewarded us with a thumb up symbol. For seven years, since the Like button exists, the daily joy of many of the over one billion Facebook users is also provided by the number of Facebook likes they received.
At this time, in the absence of a “Dislike” button, when we do not find something likeable, we may either ignore it, or to comment the things that annoy us, either in the topic, or in the ideas expressed in that post. Yet, a comment expressing disagreement to the topic of the post or the author has none of the impact estimated for the revolutionary button that will offer the chance to sanction or to give a negative feedback, that will be introduced soon and that is highly awaited by the online community.
First of all, pressing the Dislike button will be an obvious expression of disappointment, frustration, discontentment, unpatience, disapproval and anger experienced by the user of the tool towards another user, or the ideas expressed by the respective user, but it will certainly cause similar feelings in the person sanctioned this way.
Concerning personal relationships, there is fear that the Dislike button will increase their toxicity and excessively encourage negativity, thus turning Facebook in a place where people will no longer feel good about themselves and where arguments, criticism, antagonizing and virtual wars would gain whole new dimensions once the new facility is finally added.
Other people fear that the Dislike button would excessively fuel online aggressiveness or derived behaviours such as bullying or acts of vendetta that will extend besides the virtual environment, in real life.
Moreover, a Dislike button intended as a negative vote would give Facebook users the opportunity to bury offensive or boring topics, as an essential message transmitted in such situation would be “Stop determining me to look at this thing; it does not interest me”.
Specialists think that, if adequately used, the Dislike button might have a beneficial role, both in the field of personal relationships and marketing, as an early warning. Considering that it might open users or companies’ eyes on the mistakes they are making and it might determine users, whether they are individuals or companies promoting their products to be better anchored in reality, avoiding to fool themselves or to be blinded by optimism or positive thinking pushed to extremes.
I have not seen yet a study so far concerning the impact the Dislike button might have on politics conducted on Facebook, on politicians using social media to build their campaigns, to promote their image, to raise the popularity of their messages or initiatives or to keep a real and constant connection with their fans in order to check the pulse of the population in real time.
I must confess that I am indeed very curious to see how this tool destined to transmit a negative feedback by voters in real time will change inflexible attitudes, in denial of reality, of certain politicians who pass the test of elections and immediately seem to forget most of the promises and commitments made before.
After elections, it is not necessarily that these politicians move to a relax mode, winners and defeated ones alike, but they also seem to fail properly learning their respective lessons from the victory or loss and start making strategy errors that might gradually affect them a lot, both in terms of popularity and, ultimately, number of votes.
Politicians are afraid of crowds or, better to say, they pay a great amount o attention to the voice of the people around elections and they would do anything in order not to receive Dislikes at ballot boxes, but as many Likes as possible. Then, after the Likes are counted, most of them seem to have been stricken with Alzheimer’s disease for three or four years and forget most of their promises. Their memory is only restored by the nearing of the next round of elections, when their target is once again gaining the highest number of Likes, or, actually, stamps applied on the box that contains their name on the vote bulletin, and then, they once again use all their weapons to seduce masses.
Will the Dislike button have an effect of a cold shower, the impact of early warning in politicians as well? Will this facility wake them up to reality, as voters will show their thumbs down in real time, immediately after they notice mistakes, lies, violations of commitments or hesitations in politicians who have promised anything voters wanted to hear in electoral campaigns and started doing precisely the opposite to their promises, as soon as the campaign was over?
“I will be different than X”, a distinguished politician had declared in his electoral campaign. He had won the elections both on Facebook with an impressive number of Likes and offline, by obviously dominating his adversary. Less than a year has passed since those promises and the high rates of trust and affinity granted by voters living in Romania and in the Diaspora are constantly decreasing. Besides other delays and hesitations in his manner of action, that blatantly contradicts his promises in the electoral campaign, the respective politician has started to behave, in many situations, as X did. He is probably relaxed that, until the next elections that grant power to the voice of the people, so that they could express their Likes or Dislike on vote bulletins, there are four years to go. Plenty of time to solve it all.
In politics, there is only one step between power and decadence. The Dislike button will certainly be a highly sensitive measure instrument, in real time, of people’s trust in politician X or politician Y, in a given topic or another.
My opinion is that the power of the Dislike button will be much bigger than that of the Like button, concerning the pulse of voters’ support or lack thereof.
The only thing left is the hope that politicians would pay attention to these signals in due time and that they will correct violations of initial promises or any other action that is defying or arrogant towards their electorate. Fooling voters is quite hard in the digital era.
Otherwise, the trend of Dislike will soon spread offline as well.
And, on Facebook, the Like button can easily build brand new immaculate heroes.

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