Thursday, 17 September 2015

If you can't say something nice...

... don't say nothin' at all (at least on Facebook):
In December 2014, [Zuckerberg] flat-out stated that the company will not build a “dislike” button that gives people a way to disapprove of one another’s posts. (I explained in some depth at the time why Facebook wouldn’t want that.) Rather, he said, Facebook was exploring ways to allow users to convey fuzzy sentiments like surprise, laughter, or empathy.

That’s very similar to what he said Tuesday, when he asserted that “what they really want is an ability to express empathy. If you’re expressing something sad … it may not feel comfortable to ‘like’ that post, but your friends and people want to be able to express that they understand.”
Will Oremus

So long as you uncritically approve of something, your Facebook opinion counts. If you actively dislike something, you don't deserve a voice, you hater. Stepping into Zuckerberg's walled garden is like entering the brightly-coloured, advertising-saturated, micro-managed corporate dystopia of The Lego Movie, where everything is officially awesome and no form of negativity is allowed.

Being rather counter-suggestible, as Mary Beard would say, this attitude irritates me. You don't have to be a fan of spoilsports, wet blankets and abuse-hurling trolls to understand the simple fact that, in the real world, everything isn't necessarily awesome. Inevitably there are also really terrible ideas, things that are dumb, obnoxious, badly thought out, or just plain annoying. In what reality* does it make sense to record only positive evaluations of absolutely everything and disallow any other point of view?

I've not had a Facebook account for years, so it's not my problem, but here's an idea for any resistance fighters still living in Zuckerberg-occupied territory. According to Zuck, what you're going to get, instead of a proper dislike button, is some form of  general purpose 'in deepest sympathy' button, maybe in the form of a little heart, intended for those times when somebody else's life isn't so great. But who says you have to use that symbol in the Zuckerberg-approved way? Why not appropriate the 'I'm so sorry' button as a sarcastic alternative to 'liking' something truly appalling, whether it's some ill-advised or obnoxious post from an individual, or a piece of advertising puffery from some dreadful, socially irresponsible organisation?

Instead of simply ignoring some horrible thing you've been invited to like, channel Father Jack Hackett's 'I'm so, soo sorry!' and turn the sarcasm meter up to eleven.

I'm sure that Facebook HQ would try to disrupt any such networks of subversion as soon as they became apparent (come to think of it, the system probably won't allow you to 'heart' advertisers from day one - that loophole's probably too much to hope for), but any sabotage you can get away with sounds way more fun than the lobotomised form of self-expression permitted by the authorities. Bon chance, mes braves!**

*Yeah, I know, it makes sense in the reality of the hucksters who are paying to shove their adverts into your eyeballs....

** Schoolboy French howler belatedly corrected