A small selection of Facebook users received the superpower of downvoting posts recently in the social media giant’s latest beta test for a feature that, in theory, will help users self-regulate content. If you’re anxious to know whether you’re invited to test it out, only about 5 percent of English-speaking Android users will receive the “thumbs down” option through the Facebook app on their phone.
This isn’t the first time the social media trendsetter has attempted to implement such a feature. A test of this sort in 2016 resulted in Facebook implementing the well-received “reaction” features, which allow users to respond to content with a wider range of emotion than a simple thumbs-up. This time around, Facebook says the aim is to filter out so-called “fake news” and promote “meaningful social interactions.”
Shaping Your Social Media Experience
On its face, it seems almost knee-jerk that there should be a way to send negative feedback on Facebook. Forums like Reddit use a similar function. When users downvote a post or comment, it moves out of the mainstream in favor of more preferred content.
That is precisely the idea with Facebook’s new button. If you’ve used the app or visited Facebook.com lately, you may have noticed how inundated with ad content and news promotions your feed can quickly become. With the new feature, you’ll be able to downvote that content. Only comments on public pages will be eligible to be downvoted.
It’s Not A Dislike Button
If all goes as planned, your downvote will mean fewer users will have to put up with it. However, if we’ve learned anything from the social media experiment, it’s that people will find a way to misuse any new tool. Regardless of the results, it sounds like the feature won’t move immediately from beta into production.
The Facebook team has stressed the point about the feature that it’s not the opposite of “like.” Currently, the app doesn’t display the number of downvotes a post receives. After choosing to downvote a post, the user who did so has the option to indicate why they decided to flag it.
Troll Call Or Best Feature Ever?
Regardless of how it looks on paper or in beta, we won’t know exactly what this addition will mean for Facebook users in full-fat form until it is deployed to all users. Should that become a reality, expect a change to those thousand-post-long public messages or poll-style posts.
Interaction with strangers could become more complicated because anyone could downvote your comment and keep another from seeing it. Facebook would hypothetically become a little less extroverted, as your content would stop including things that are tangentially related to your feed.
Timing Is Everything
It is interesting that Facebook chose to test this now. They are clearly reeling from the recent backlash of users unhappy with the frequent fake news posts, and the media’s coverage of how Russian hackers and other groups used the social media platform to place ads for the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s celebrity CEO, has expressed an apparent distaste for the function in the past, stating:
I don’t think there needs to be a voting mechanism on Facebook about whether posts are good or bad. I don’t think that’s socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives.
Doing an about-face on this statement is enough to make you think there must be a lot of pressure coming to Zuckerberg’s desk to give people more control over their Facebook experience — not to mention a lot of unfiltered, extraneous content turning up on the platform.
Zuckerberg knows that for Facebook to remain relevant, it will have to evolve. The challenge is in retaining enough of the look and feel people have come to know as part of their daily lives and adding features that make the app better, rather than worse. Sometimes, that means eating your words. We’re not sure about you, but a Facebook with fewer random protein powder ads might not be such a bad thing.