I can see where Facebook is coming from with its plan to add the ‘dislike’ button. It’s a pity that one can’t express condolences or sympathy with one click. But think about it. You simply can’t do empathy with click.
Clicking ‘dislike’ when hearing of a bereavement is like raising your eyebrows across a meeting in the direction of someone who has recently received a terminal diagnosis.
It’s the wrong idiom. If you want to express empathy you have to feel empathy and you have do do something that costs a bit of time and effort. You have to take some trouble to show that you know what it feels like to be in trouble.
The point that the dislike button will be gift to trolls and bullies, and a curse to those on the receiving end, is also important. There’s vulnerability in even the most annoying Facebook friend, and a sudden rush of dislikes could feel like a good kicking.
The worst aspect of the dislike button however is that it is pandering to our increasingly rampant desire to use our overdeveloped critical faculties. Michael S. Roth argues that our education system today has become seriously out of balance and that we have created a generation of ‘self-satisfied debunkers’ who seek not to marvel at the achievements of writers and artists but seek to find their one fatal flaw, inconsistency, contraction – the one reason why they can be dismissed.
There is no problem with well-rounded critical faculties, which will help us grow wiser through a process of attentive study, informed conversation and the careful formulation of opinion. But this has nothing to do with sharpening up your philistine tendencies of knowing what you don’t like and finding reasons not to give art, or people, the respect or time they deserve.
Michael Roth’s blog is here http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/10/young-minds-in-critical-condition/?_r=0