Does Facebook need a 'sympathise' button?

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If you are posting sad statuses, you are missing the point of Facebook - and friendship, say critics

LAST UPDATED AT 14:28 ON Tue 10 Dec 2013

A FACEBOOK 'sympathise' button would prompt an "outpouring of misery statuses", warned critics, after the social network suggested installing an alternative to the 'like' button for sad messages.

Dan Muriello, a software engineer from Facebook, revealed this week that the new 'sympathise' button was created as part of a brainstorming session but that there were no plans to launch it at the moment.

It would not work for every post, he said. But if a user selected an emoticon such as sad or depressed in their status update the 'like' button would automatically change to 'sympathise'.

"A lot of people were very excited," Muriello said. "But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product. Yet."

Chris Smith at Techradar describes it as a "nice idea" in some cases. "After all, when someone expresses a loss, users may appreciate the sentiments expressed in a status update, but clicking 'like' doesn't quite seem appropriate."

But he says Facebook already takes the effort out of maintaining real friendships and the new button would take the sincerity out of real-life condolences. "Do we really need that threatened further by a sympathy button?"
In the Daily Telegraph, Emma Barnett says the idea makes her "want to vomit". She fears it will prompt an "outpouring of misery statuses" on the site.

"God. Help. Us. I am as guilty as the next Facebook user of putting up the occasional photo or posting the odd humble brag here and there in order to elicit a few mood-boosting 'likes'," says Barnett. "But trying to show off your life in the best light possible, while pretty unhealthy in its own special way, it is no way as bad as a surge of people trying to construct sob stories to get this new sympathy tick when it arrives."

Ellen E Jones in The Independent says Facebook is intended to be used largely as a forum for lightweight boasting, not a substitute for genuine, supportive relationships. "If you're posting sad statuses, you're not only missing the point of Facebook, you're missing the point of friendship," she says.

Far from enhancing our digital vocabulary, a sympathise button will only limit the rich expressiveness of online silence, she adds. "What if you're sorry your friend has been dumped, but feel the real tragedy is their decision to air this dirty laundry in public? What if you're so sick of looking at pictures of [your friend's] luxury holidays that you think it only reasonable if their return flight was delayed on the runway for two hours? The campaign for a 'schadenfreude' button starts here." · 

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