Facebook Empathy

Purists will say it is not Mr. Zuckerberg who has invented social media but for us, mere mortals, he sort of has. What is even more remarkable than Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook invention and the effect it has had on our social lives, is his impact on the English language.


One word, one website, and post-Zuckerberg, ‘to like’ has never been the same again.
That being said, Zuckerberg’s ‘like’ would make a particular if what poor dictionary entry.

verb [ trans ]
find agreeable or funny, accept, appreciate
Origin: Old English līcian (to be pleasing), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch lijken.
Antonym: none

Until soon. For Mr. Zuckerberg has announced he and his team are currently working on an alternative to the ‘like’- button.

Aha, finally. But hold on.

‘To like’ used to be a simple verb. I like red wine. I like your new dress. We could, alternatively, ‘not like’ something. Even dislike it. I don’t like white wine. I don’t like high-waisted jeans. I dislike children.
But with Facebook, ‘to like’ suddenly became another verb. Less of a verb and more, as the logo shows, a ‘thumbs up!’
So far from the Roman amphitheater, spared a sentence of life or death, a simple click now meant ‘yes, I agree’, or ‘yes, I hear you’ and with silence as its only opposition (to unfriend being the sole somewhat drastic alternative), ‘to like’ became a simple acknowledgement, ‘yes, I read this’.

Void of concurrence, what is a ‘like’ if not a fake-like.

In his latest public Q&A session, Mr. Zuckerberg, always keen and gung-ho in his logo-free T-shirt, says he has heard the people and their request for a ‘dislike’-button. He understands us. Better than we understand ourselves. For we, so it seems, do not really want a ‘dislike’- button. That is not what the big Facebook community stands for. We do not, so it seems, want to become a forum of people ‘voting up or down’, of, let’s say, likers and haters. God no. What we want, what we really really want

Sorry! Could not help myself

Sorry! Could not help myself

is to be able to express empathy.
Now, Mr. Zuckerberg is right. When somebody posts a picture of his deceased mother on the day of her anniversary, a ‘like’ seems somewhat odd. Who can ‘like’ a picture of people fleeing a natural disaster or the war zone they used to call home? So indeed, we could use different options. But if I can’t dislike, if I can’t give a thumbs down, then what will be the point?

How nuanced do I have to be in disagreeing?

For now we will have to wait and see what the FB team comes up with. Creating a simple interaction, Mr. Zuckerberg says, is not that simple. True. Human interaction is not simple. Not face to face, not from behind a screen. It is hard to be honest. It is even harder to be clear. And how does one remain subtle?
I personally have a pathetically short Facebook friend’s list I can only see shrinking with the appearance of a ‘dislike’-button.
So in the mean time, humour me and like me if you can?