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Would you 'like' a Facebook 'sympathize' button?

Automatic expressions of sympathy may come to Facebook, but a dislike button remains the stuff of fantasy.

Mark Zuckerberg
Sympathetic? Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a June 20 Facebook event. James Martin/CNET

Facebook may be loosening its straightjacket on emotional responses with a "sympathize" button for negative news, but a "dislike" button remains a dream.

If the function ever were implemented, users who tag a status with a negative emoticon would see acknowledgements of sympathy versus "likes." Disliking the bad news, however, would not be an option.

Facebook engineer Dan Muriello described the possible function and its origins in a company hackathon, saying the sympathetic response would accompany gloomy updates only. For example, it would only work with posts in which users specified what they're feeling by selecting from Facebook's menu of 40 emoticons, which tries to encompass the vast range of human psychology.

Of course, arranging the mess of human emotions into neat little emoticons and buttons is great for data mining and marketing.

Setting aside the question of whether it's appropriate to express concern for a friend with something as banal as a mouse click, many might welcome more choices in status buttons -- especially when it's bad news like a death or a breakup.

Earlier this year, Facebook engineer Bob Baldwin dismissed the idea of a button to show disapproval, effectively disliking the dislike button.

Meanwhile, it's unclear when a sympathize button might be rolled out.

"It would be, 'five people sympathize with this,' instead of 'five people like this,' which, of course, a lot of people were -- and still are -- very excited about," Muriello was quoted as saying in the Huffington Post. He was speaking during Facebook Compassion Research Day.

"But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product -- yet," he said.

Do you use Facebook's emoticon choices? Would you like the "like" button any more or less if it had a sympathize function? Express your feelings in the comments below.

(Via BBC News)