Zuckerberg muses on 'dislike' button, the emotion study and pizza

In another Q&A session with users, the Facebook CEO says the social network is trying to figure out a way to help express a broader array of emotions.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read

CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent an hour answering questions from the social network's users. Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg is thinking about adding a "dislike" button to Facebook, but not for the reason you think.

The chief executive of the world's largest social network said Thursday he's considered adding a button to Facebook posts, allowing people a third way to express reactions other than clicking "Like" or leaving a comment.

But it's not to express displeasure, he said. Rather, he noticed users have struggled to respond when people post unhappy things, such as a death in the family or a personal struggle.

"People say they don't feel comfortable pressing 'Like,'" he said. There's something easy about the "Like" button that makes it valuable, he said, and Facebook is trying to figure out a way to help express a broader array of emotions.

Zuckerberg made his comments during an hour-long, town-hall-style question-and-answer session at the company's headquarters. The event was a follow-up to one he held in November, during which he discussed the movie "The Social Network," as well as various new policies on the site. He said he plans to hold more next year.

People have long debated how Facebook allows expression. The company added emoticons to posts and messages two years ago, for example, and it's refined the way it approaches sexual identity, among other things.

For those who believe adding a button to Facebook is a simple fix, Zuckerberg said he will continue to take a measured approach because he wants to be mindful of how users would respond. In the case of a "dislike," he said, allowing users to effectively say they don't agree with something wouldn't be "good for the world."

Among the other items he discussed was a study Facebook participated in two years ago, the results of which were published this summer. Facebook came under heavy scrutiny for having conducted tests on nearly 700,000 users to determine if positive posts made people feel bad.

Zuckerberg said the study came about because there had been several articles written about Facebook's impact on its users' feelings, and the company wanted to ensure it wasn't having "a negative impact on society." "We don't want to make people sad," he said. "That's the type of thing our community should want us to test."

The problem, he said, was the way the company went about conducting the study.

Bigger impact

One user said Facebook has become synonymous with wasting time and hurting productivity, and asked how it can become a more productive medium. Zuckerberg dismissed the characterization, saying society has taught us we can't have fun or spend time with friends until we finish our work. "I think that that's wrong," he said. "For me, the relationships that I have, the friends, the family, that's the part of my life that matters." And he said Facebook tries to help people stay connected with more people than they otherwise could.

"I don't think it's a waste of time at all, and I think it's kind of sad people in our society think that trying to spend time building relationships and knowing what's going on with the people around you is considered a waste of time," he said.

So if he had a teenage kid, what would he tell them about Facebook? Zuckerberg said he believes teenagers understand technology more than we give them credit for. "I remember being really young and using technology," he said. "I started Facebook when I was a teenager."

What he said he would do instead is talk about the site with his kid. He discussed bullying, and efforts to make users display their real names so that they're more responsible about how they act.

Stuff you didn't know about Zuck

We also learned a couple of new things about Zuckerberg, such as that he wears contact lenses. He's also not good at saying "thank you," something he learned over the past year when he challenged himself to thank someone each day.

Some people, he said, see beauty in the world, while others see how they want to make it better. "This year has been an interesting challenge for me," he said.

He was also asked what his favorite type of pizza is. His response? Fried chicken.