How the ‘Thumbs Up/Like’ Button is Dumbing Users Down

by on 06/01/11 at 8:58 am

Have you ever learned more about an article or video by reading the comments people leave? Comments used to offer useful, supplementary information that you couldn’t get from the article or video itself. It was a way to learn more about a topic by listening to the different perspectives other people had. Today, the comments on most social websites limit people to two perspectives: ‘like’ or ‘dislike’. This limited view has changed the mentality and behavior of users, and the ‘thumbs up/like’ button is to blame.

The ‘thumbs up’ game

The ‘thumbs up/like’ button is the voting system used to rate user comments on social websites. They’re most notably found on Facebook, YouTube and other social news sites. If someone gives your comment a thumbs up, it means they like what you said. If they give you a thumbs down, it means they don’t like what you said. This voting system has created the ‘thumbs up’ game, where people see who can make the wittiest comment to gain the highest ‘thumbs up’ count. This game might seem innocent and fun, but it has reduced critical thought and discussion to almost nil.

The quintessential example of this is on YouTube. If you look at the comments for YouTube videos, you’ll find that most of them are 3-8 word, one liners that sound like they came out of a bad sitcom. Many of them are senseless, vulgar and add little real value to the content. Some users will even copy and paste a successful comment on one video to another just to increase their ‘thumbs up’ count. Some will outright ask for a ‘thumbs up’ to acknowledge assent. Some will crack a joke about the number of people who disliked a video that most people liked. The ‘thumbs up/like’ button has not just turned YouTube comments into a mindless game, but it has created an endless obsession for ‘thumbs up’ votes.

This game and obsession for the most ‘likes’ degrades the comment quality of a website. It distracts users from discussing the real topics and issues at hand. Instead of reading insightful and original thoughts that teach something new, users read useless comments from people trying to score ‘thumbs up’ points. It has put more importance on voting than discussing.

All emotion, no intellect

Comments have become nothing more than a place for people to vent their emotions. You are given two choices, ‘like’ or ‘dislike’. This format causes users to make simple-minded, emotional comments, where users are quick to express their love or hate. This causes users to constantly judge what they see and read, instead of fully understanding it. Human thinking isn’t limited to just feelings and emotions. It also includes the intellect, which is rarely seen in comments today.

Users also have a tendency to express how they feel about other users. If one person says something another person doesn’t like, a heated argument could start, where insults get thrown back and forth. It becomes personal and more about one’s ego than about the topic of discussion at hand. This not only creates a war of words between people, but it can also create a ‘thumbs up’ war that causes users to abuse the ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ button. The ‘thumbs up’ button would be more useful if it was used to call-out important comments that add to the discussion. And the ‘thumbs down’ button would be more useful if it was used to hide comments that don’t add to the discussion. However, the buttons are used to promote the silly and witty comments, which might amuse people, but it doesn’t challenge them to think about the topics and issues at hand.

Encourages groupthink, discourages individuality

The ‘thumbs up/like’ button can discourage users with different, unconventional perspectives from leaving their comments. The fear of getting judged and receiving ‘thumbs down’ votes by the opposing crowd might make them feel like it’s better not to say anything at all. Thus, the people who are likely to comment are those who tend to agree with the crowd. This creates groupthink, discourages individuality and prevents unconventional thinking from appearing in the comments.

Since users see the ‘thumbs up’ button as the symbol of approval, it makes them even more docile to follow what everyone else agrees with. The ‘thumbs up’ votes dictates what type of comments will get noticed. This tempts users to leave comments that resemble the most liked comment to get their comment noticed. This prevents people from leaving comments that offer a unique perspective. Instead, every other comment is either a witty remark or one that parrots how everyone else feels. The result is a group of people who think and feel the same.

Good for marketers, bad for consumers?

The ‘thumbs up/like’ button isn’t only used on a few websites. It’s starting to spread quickly to a plethora of websites. This is due to Facebook’s feature that allows anyone to embed the ‘Like’ button on their website. So far, over 50,000 websites have adopted Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. Google has also started their own version of the ‘Like’ button, called the +1 button, used for rating search results. How will this affect the way users perceive web content? Will it help or hurt them?

Another question to ask is how will this affect marketers and consumers? Surely, marketers will use this information to market products to consumers. By knowing what people like, it makes their job easier. It’s safe to say that marketers are liking the ‘thumbs up/like’ button, but is this good for consumers? Should consumers worry that marketers will use this information to market products and advertisements to them? It’s been said that the ‘thumbs up/like’ button is to help users find the best content. But who really benefits from it in the end?

It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure. The ‘thumbs up/like’ button is dumbing us down. It has killed critical thinking and meaningful discussions in the comments. The idea of recognizing important comments does have value. But the concept of recognizing them through ‘thumbs ups’ and ‘likes’ is changing our behavior in a totally unexpected way.

62 Responses to “How the ‘Thumbs Up/Like’ Button is Dumbing Users Down”

  1. Juanlu001

    Jun 1st, 2011

    What a great article, really. I am happy you don’t have a like button here :P

    If only we were smart enough to use the upvotes and downvotes to enlighten the conversation, and not just saying “Oh nope, I don’t agree/understand your comment” or “That is what I just was waiting to read!”. I sometimes feel that great comments are downvoted only because they were posted in the wrong place…

  2. Tom

    Jun 1st, 2011

    Like

  3. Josh

    Jun 1st, 2011

    I disagree with the generalization of the article. While I agree that likes and dislikes don’t really inspire a whole lot of conversation. I think using Youtube as an example of how it’s dumbing down comments is inaccurate. I’ve never found a lot of thought provoking comments on YouTube even before the feature existed. Comments on YouTube in general have gone through cycles of spam comments and plenty of mindless vulgar comments. I think what the article misses is a site that provides content people think about still get decent comments, like on a site like this.

    I think there is a place for different user interaction, some will be more thought provoking than others, but you have to match the type of interaction with type of site. I think on facebook the like is just another way for people to interact with a post for users who might not otherwise interact.

    The anonymity of the internet provides a vehicle for a lot of mindless comments. I think Netflix is bombarded by wanna be movie critics who don’t always give you a good gauge on films, so I don’t always find a lot of value in their comments even though they are trying to be very thought provoking.

    • anthony

      Jun 2nd, 2011

      While I agree that mindless, vulgar comments existed on YouTube before the thumbs up button, I think there’s a lot more of it now. And I mean, a lot more. Before, there were comments that were useful that supplemented information to the content. Now, it’s just people emotionally expressing their like or dislike about everything. Also, everyone is now so focused on the ‘thumbs up’ points so much that the topic and issue at hand generates very little discussion.

      Yes, there will always certainly be some person who makes a dumb comment that they should’ve thought twice about. But there’s so much of that now that quality comments are nearly extinct in a thread. I think the idea of voting on quality comments is a great idea. But doing it in the way of a ‘like’ or ‘thumbs up’ completely changes how people see and evaluate comments. It’s not the feature that is the culprit here, it’s the interface design concept.

    • heathquinn

      Jun 4th, 2011

      Josh’s points are right, I think.

      Kids learn in school even during play. Adults learn during play, too. To be playful doesn’t exclude awareness of the multiple layers of context in which play occurs. And like/unlike voting is a form of play.

      Most designers and writers are confident of their own visions of the world, even as those visions are evolving or are being challenged. This is not so for many others.

      Like/unlike voting allows people to express themselves. No matter that like/unlike voting seems overly reactive, humorous, vindictive, or seemingly unfocused on the surface. Those who use like/unlike voting are still involved with the content – both original and comments – and they are expressing valid opinions, while learning to develop social voices and original points of view.

      In acting to vote something up or down, there’s fun involved, and often passion. That makes for a payoff. And your content has made that possible for them, so subliminally you have hooked them, even if only a little.

      Like/unlike voting on dimensionally enhances the user’s experience of digital content, of any kind. It may not bring the kind of response you anticipate when you publish your content. But it reveals your audience’s realities. One of the great things about how the web works is how realities that were formerly invisible come to the fore. One of the other great things is how that dynamic creates a reaction, where the “other side” adjusts expectations and expressions and ideas. And the new realities surface, and new adjustments and challenges result, and so on. This is a new world. Too much control is antithetical to how it works – and that it works.

      • Tim

        Aug 7th, 2012

        I like your comment, it’s these invisible realities that this blog post has missed entirely.

        • John

          Jun 30th, 2013

          Nope. You’re completely wrong. Shut the **** up, no one cares what you have to say.

          * dislike *

      • Laura

        Oct 1st, 2013

        “Too much control is antithetical to how it works – and that it works.” <— Nicely said.

  4. Tom Laurinec

    Jun 1st, 2011

    I think comments are complex problem anyway. Today I read some article about Rooney’s opinion about Messi. I was curious about comments beyond article. Then I saw it … 3874 comments. I left this page.

    It’s in this time more like a old school chat rooms. I agree, that’s maybe bad example, because you wrote about social websites (I hate this terminus technicus) like Facebook. But comments under something (article, post, image, video) are the same.

    In two or three weeks I will starting a new project, where will be comments too. And I don’t want there this chat rooms :-D

  5. Josh

    Jun 2nd, 2011

    Another related argument is the amount of readers who would post the typical “ME TOO!”, in agreement to an user’s comment. Engadget is a perfect example. Someone would read an article and post a (somewhat clever) perspective on the discussion at hand. However, underneath it are around 3-5 replies to that comment in agreement without a specific reason as to why. Almost each comment has a few sub-replies without any useful information. A better example are forums where one asks a question and 10 other people reply with the same question.

    IMO, removing the thumbs up/down type of rating may actually lead towards more informative user discussions on said subject. Which, in tern, entices more readers to reply. I understand that this rating system has the ability to have the highest ‘thumbed up’ comments sent to the top, and when used this way it’s fine, albeit purposeless if comments are few per article. However, readers are just lazy and a lot of the time it’s more of an “I AGREE!” icon, really. People need to learn Facebook isn’t internet god, and neither are it’s ideas. Everything is trial and error.

    The truth is, 3000+ comments are not going to be read one by one. The only reason to up-vote comments to the #1 spot in the first place was (I assume) to avoid this scenario. It does stink if your comment is #1000 in a 3000 comment discussion and unlike many others, you actually had something to say. But, these are the problems of large sites, including YouTube.

    I think technology is changing our culture’s way of thinking as a whole anyway. In time, I (hope) that people wise up to a better way of displaying an articles comments and the user’s choices to reply to them.

  6. albert

    Jun 3rd, 2011

    facebook’s like button, lacking the dislike option, adds another layer of limiting personal reflections. everything is good! nothing is bad! its beyond monotonous, and quite annoying. ease of use is a factor here, sometimes i don’t want to make a “post” or simply don’t have time to do so, but want certain content included in my stream for my peeps to see. say for example i came across an article about crime on the rise in my area: i have to give it a thumbs up in this case. so it looks like i’m celebrating crime! hurrah! i’m not worried about people making assumptions, but there are alot of people who are.
    lastly, i think most of this is a result of enterprise code and developers. facebook’s ui is deceptive to say the least; google has no clue what to do with social; etc.
    hoping this article makes the rounds!

    ps – your form throws an alert if not filled out correctly? dude, not kewl.
    pps – i am not spamming input isn’t marked as required. totally not kewl.

  7. Flip Sasser

    Jun 3rd, 2011

    I can’t remember a time when most comments weren’t trolling or flamewars. Most of the conversations that happen in comments happen inside communities too large for me to have a real conversation anyway.

    User feedback belongs in a separate venue entirely – comments, like the “old school chat room,” are left over from the old days. Social link sharing, reposting, and commenting makes a lot more sense to me, especially if users can engage the original author in that medium.

    As far as blogs go, the single-voiced dictator approach always works best.

  8. Jenni

    Jun 3rd, 2011

    It depends on the community rather than the buttons as to the quality of comments. On news sites you’re always going to get flaming wars, same for youtube as they are the places which attract trolls. If you look at the thumbs up in practice in a community of users who are generally friendly, then they are used in a much more positive way. Take a look at seomoz.org/blog for instance. The thumbs up system isn’t abused and it’s actually very helpful to pick out the good advice from the bad in the comments.

    • JoJo

      Aug 7th, 2011

      I also agree that people cause the problem, not the voting system. Stackexchange.com has a vote up/down system, but most of the comments are useful. You never see people cracking jokes like on Youtube and Digg. Stackexchange’s audience is for serious people who want to get professional answers. Youtube and Digg are for people who want to be amused.

  9. Chris

    Jun 3rd, 2011

    This article assumes that Youtube and Facebook weren’t mindless outlets to begin with. Who cares if there are a million “thumbs up” for a video of a fat guy falling out of a tree?

    Videos worth thinking about will naturally produce comments worth reading.

    • Joel Salisbury

      Jun 3rd, 2011

      Agreed. I’d say we don’t have to worry about the internet reducing “crit­i­cal thought and dis­cus­sion to almost nil” more than it already has.

  10. David Airey

    Jun 3rd, 2011

    There’ll always be garbage comments. The ability to “like” garbage and pull it to the top of a comment thread exacerbates the problem, but what these large websites are missing is a policy of deleting comments that clearly come from trolls, rather than publishing one-word replies to bump-up comment counts.

    Nowadays I don’t generally allow comments on my blogs that add nothing to the conversation, because my commentators (on the whole) are much more intelligent than I am, and I realise how valuable a section of the site the threads are for visitors.

    • Tripad

      Jun 4th, 2011

      Totally agree with the problem of very stupid comments coming on top of all the rest just because someone “+1″ed it

      Also IMO sites like facebook should really differentiate between a “like” and a “share” There is very little difference in visual representation of the “liked” content and “shared” content.

      Compared : http://i.imgur.com/u8Wjw.png

      Usually when i click like on a page i usually means:
      “uhmm i like the article but dont not quite enough to share it with my buddies”
      but when i am sharing something i usually want to say: “Guys check this out.. this is freaking awesome”

      But since both visually look the same the emoticons quite literally gets killed!

  11. james

    Jun 3rd, 2011

    Ummm, I can’t find the ‘like’ button for this article.

  12. ladyday

    Jun 4th, 2011

    Never saw it that way before but now I doubt i’ll thumbs up anything ever again.

    It’s just if you leave a comment you leave a cyber footprint or are vulnerable to harassment or scrutiny.

    If you leave a thumbs up you have agreed but not put yourself in harms way.

    I prefer to read the comments to see how stupid people are. On news commentary sites I usually go straight to the comments before i read the article. I get a good sense of the “outrage” and then decide if i join the angry mob or antagonise them:-)

  13. Jason Paul

    Jun 4th, 2011

    I half agree. It’s a semantics issue. The Like button is really about pushing content out to a users social circle. It should have officially been called Share. Same functionality different intent subconsciously. Most people wouldn’t comment anyway but the low level Like commitment helps content move around.

  14. Carmine

    Jun 4th, 2011

    I think this comic put it best…
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

  15. Andreas Ostheimer

    Jun 4th, 2011

    I think you are right BUT (big but) the truth is: people able to add something useful have always been the majority and won’t be scared off by some like. On the other hands people who just like what you or another commenter said stayed silent in the past – had to stay. Now they can at least press the like button.
    There will always be room for intelligent comments and the sensation of clicking like will wear off – so no worries: They (whoever this might be) said the same thing about TV and yet, here are you now, children of Beavis and Butthead (90s show on MTV), writing great articles.

  16. keith

    Jun 4th, 2011

    I really think this is over-generalizing it.

    If you hit YouTube videos for flavor-of-the-week entertainment, you’ll find those attention whores. Same thing with the videos that get passed around – they’re more often pop-culture commentaries, “go viral” stupidity/insanity/cleverness, and not something that really would drive debate.

    And ever citing Facebook as an example is a joke in itself – that site changes too often, so today’s “like” is tomorrow’s “recommend” or “send”

    I do have to agree that often comments degrade in to the “emotional battle” – you insulted me because you insult my beliefs/my stated opinion, so I must degrade you and point out your poor grammar to show I have the stronger intellect. Sense of humor is also often lost.

    The other issue? These sites are wide open to all age groups. I have a feeling many of them may be kids (mentally and/or physically) who are acting out online. To lump the world in to one category is way over generalizing.

    I know I’ve seen a similar discussion come up on Reddit before – and the people there are pretty good about “liking” things that add, and “disliking” things that are inane/useless, and often times people will point out comments that get unfairly “disliked” because they just represent the other side of an argument.

  17. keith

    Jun 4th, 2011

    Also, how about instead of requiring a “I am not spamming” checkbox, make a special field that a spam bot will more than likely enter something, a la:
    http://www.modernblue.com/web-design-blog/fighting-spam-with-css/

    At least let me click the input label to hit the checkbox…

  18. Redwall_hp

    Jun 4th, 2011

    The real problem is not the buttons but the size of the userbase. YouTube comments suck because they’re full of barely-literate people who like to throw around slurs of one sort or another. As a website grows, and becomes mainstream, this behavior becomes more noticeable. One site that has resisted this effect very well over the years is Reddit…and it has had those up and down buttons since the beginning. Discourse is still pretty good, and YouTube-esque comments get voted way down, but the average submission quality has lowered somewhat.

  19. Cmorales

    Jun 4th, 2011

    Have Youtube comments ever been enriching?

    Long time before the thumbs buttons, every video would end up in plain insults no matter what the topic of the video was.

    I understand your point, but these buttons provide a way to people to show their opinions without having to comment anything. Sometimes people didn’t comment on a video or a post because everything was said by others. Therefore, they didn’t say anything redundant. Now, those people can show their opinion agreeing with the ones that said what they think,

  20. Andrew Woods

    Jun 4th, 2011

    You raise some valid points. The conversational aspect to comments is important, and where most of the learning occurs. i think the idea of thumbs up /down voting is interesting. It could be used to augment the learning aspect. However, The current implementations are being gamed, and not in a good way.

    The trick is to set up the rules to compel people to do the right thing. If done right, the community could peer regulate, and keep the quality of conversation high. What if we didn’t show the number of up and down votes? I have a couple of ideas for thing we could do instead.
    1. low light the comments that are thumbed down too many times. Basically, add shades of grey with css.
    2. track the users who continually write comments that other people vote down. send them an email to raise their quality
    3. track the thumb up/down votes of users and look for people that mostly vote people down (to prevent people from silencing opinions different from their own)
    4. Change the Label to Helpful / Not Helpful

    Youtube comments have always made me fear for our collective future.

  21. Kate

    Jun 4th, 2011

    I don’t think it works this way, really. Those who want more information and valuable comments/conversation will always read on; that doesn’t change, simply because of a new tool that lifts a handful of words to the top. That’s like thinking radio will die because of television.

    I think I know the difference between emotive, subjective commentary versus valuable, more objective messages; I can judge just fine as to whether I wish to look for one or the other, as I always have. Those who have no desire to do that, won’t read on, in which case nothing changes for them, either. For me personally, it works quite well on Reddit.

    Also, YouTube is the worst possible example you could choose (and Digg, especially since some of its changes, isn’t much better), because comments on YouTube have always been atrocious and probably always will be, as they more accurately represent the general population, which is–let’s face it–astoundingly ill-educated at times.

  22. Jeremiah Zabal

    Jun 4th, 2011

    Facebook’s embeddable Like button (mentioned in the last section) is completely different from the Like feature attached to posts and comments within the site.

    It’s similar to Facebook’s previous method of allowing you to list your interests, favorite movies, books, artists, etc on your profile. But it’s more along the lines of subscribing to a product/company/service — it adds that brand’s posts into your feed. As such it shouldn’t necessarily imply one’s liking of it. I’ve “Liked” pages simply to keep up with their updates, even if i don’t like them — they may even be competing businesses or brands. It can also easily be gamed. Many organizations hold contests that require you to Like their page in order to be eligible to prizes (which inflates their “Likes”).

    So yes, good for marketers, and probably not so good for consumers. But the article didn’t quite differentiate between these and the “comment” likes in the first part of the post.

    • anthony

      Jun 7th, 2011

      They’re in different contexts, but have a similar purpose and effect. The only difference in Facebook’s ‘Like’ button is that there is no ‘Dislike’ button. Users cannot ‘Dislike’ anything. They are only given ONE option to ‘Like’. This encourages groupthink even further and does not allow one to question or oppose whatever is shown.

      When something gets a lot of ‘Likes’, the only thing users think is that a lot of people like it, so it must be good. Thus, they’ll push the ‘Like’ button because everyone else is doing it. And since there’s only one option, it’s very easy to follow suit.

      • Jeremiah Zabal

        Jun 12th, 2011

        I understand what you’re saying, but you’re jumping to way too many conclusions. Not everyone is a lemming. Sure there may be some peer pressure and link-mindedness in smaller social circles, but i doubt most people are going to like something against their own desires or beliefs just because a bunch of others already have.

        It would help your argument if you could link to any independent references or studies on the subject.

  23. Steven Wright

    Jun 4th, 2011

    One of the benefits I see, that unfortunately is not widely used, is the ability to track how opinionated someone is by how many likes and dislikes. In fact, I would think a comment with 100 ups and downs would be more interesting than any one-sided point of view. I think Digg do a good job of allowing views of most controversial comments.

    • MsSphinx09

      May 11th, 2012

      Actually, one of my favorite things is to see who got the most negative votes. Sometimes, they’re deserved, sometimes not; but they’re always the most interesting.

  24. Paul

    Jun 5th, 2011

    >All emo­tion, no intellect

    Yes, it’s a known fact that most people respond with emotion rather than reason.

    >Encour­ages group­think, dis­cour­ages individuality

    Yes, groupthink – the most overlook logical fallacy.

  25. andrei

    Jun 5th, 2011

    Mozilla Projects started doing something about this https://www.drumbeat.org/en-US/challenges/beyond-comment-threads/ lets hope the ideas are good enough and will be taken into consideration by large websites.I think that the like button is just a trend and will fade away, it may be a needed step to the evolution of the web.We just need to make it better

  26. Jiew Meng

    Jun 5th, 2011

    While I agree that there are alot of spam on YouTube, I’d disagree that up/down voting is bad. It gives users a sense of how popular the content is. With information overload, I think knowing how popular the content is acts as 1 level of filter.

    • andrei

      Jun 6th, 2011

      referring to the videos : You get a pretty good sense of how popular content is just by the number of views, i remember a couple of years ago when i was browsing youtube that was the only standard and it was going ok as well.
      referring to the comments : The up/down voting for them just brings up some witty comment or some random joke and rarely (or almost never) have i seen something useful related to that particular video.

  27. AnneD

    Jun 5th, 2011

    One thing the article doesn’t address is how the “like” or +1 button encourages the formation or reenforcement of weak ties in a social environment. While weak ties may be good for reach, ultimately the aren’t good for society.

  28. Rob

    Jun 14th, 2011

    Trolls have always been on YouTube. Long time before those buttons YouTube was already filled with superficial comments, maybe because the young generation discovered it first. And it could be that just because the most liked comments are on top of the page you notice them.

    It also depends on the video itself. Some invite you for having nice discussions, but in the comment section of for example music videos you’ve always got these endless wars of lovers vs haters. It was like that way before those buttons. I don’t think it’s gotten worse because of the buttons.

    And if you take a look at Facebook: i quite like the Like button. If someone puts on a status update I think is interesting, but i can’t add anything to the discussion, I’ll just like so he/she can see I appreciated the update. If people want to have a discussion about sometime, they’ll still do.

  29. Josh

    Aug 1st, 2011

    Unfortunately there isn’t a good way to screen out dumb comments. I suppose you could see how enlightening the subject matter is by taking a sampling of the comments and sorting them, but I’m not sure that would get you where you were intending.. thoughtful commenting.

  30. Aljan Scholtens

    Dec 15th, 2011

    Sorry for my late response, my Read It Later was a little bit overloaded. ;-)

    Nice article and I really agree about this. But if you use it the right way there is actually nothing wrong with it.

    I’m the owner of the photography feedback community Focussion (http://focussion.com/). It’s about posting photos and getting feedback from others. And you need to post feedback if you want to upload your own photos. It’s based on a point-system.

    And if your write good feedback other users can mark this feedback as helpful and the writer will receive some extra points. This is used very well, we actually encourage and reward users to write helpful feedback!

    So I think it really depends how you implement it, think about how you can integrate it into the core of your website.

  31. Joe

    Jan 19th, 2012

    I happen to agree with this completely. Some of my visitors who read my content have already formed a conclusion about the subject without having done any formal research or even attempting to reference their disagreeing point of view to challenge the writing. They often post one or two word negative comments. Not useful at all.

  32. Rachel

    Jan 24th, 2012

    I absolutely agree. I hate when discussions on FB start to turn into a subtle “competition” to see who gets the most “likes”. It’s actually a bit of a popularity contest. As if those who don’t get “liked” are not worth listening to or don’t have a point. Actually they do, it’s just that they have opinions that happen to be unpopular with the people who make up the active members of the group. I hate that. To make things more interesting and fair, they should have a “Dislike” button. People, follow the herd mentality at your own risk.

  33. Rod

    Apr 16th, 2012

    At last ! I thought I was getting old and grumpy on this subject. I am planning to leave all these stupid toys out of a current site project, with some obvious doubts, but now I’ve read this great feature these “digits” will have to justify their purpose before I even consider using them. So much web design is simply “follow the crowd” without actually considering the purpose of these type of icons. Some sites really do get dragged into the mud by thumbs and comments.

    They have a purpose but like all elements in a website they have to have a reason to be included not solely be a trend.

  34. Arondale

    Apr 24th, 2012

    While I do find many articles on this site insightful and opinionated in interaction design, I think this article is way off point.

    The LIKE button is not dumbing users down. The like button on Facebook (which used to be the Awesome button), is not the same at all as YouTube’s usage of thumbs up / thumbs down. YouTube uses it as a voting mechanism, primarily.

    However, Facebook’s strategy is entirely different. It geared towards targeted marketing. By making connections between those things you like, you are giving Facebook legal rights to track information for targeted marketing, which, yields higher conversion for ads displayed on Facebook the next time you log on their site.

    By providing a legal mechanism to track a user’s interests, a story / persona is created by the commonalities between all that you like. At one point, facebook was tracking every site you visited, until the whistle blowers came out.

    When you want to buy shoes, you don’t go to Facebook. You go to google search or some other specific site. However, if you like shoes and have clicked the “Like” button on many of the brands and styles of shoes, then Facebook then has an opportunity to market those items to you, as specials become available on the brands that you like, via facebook ads targeted specifically toward your interests. This goes way beyond the like button. This goes for all the music, interests, political views, gender, relationship status, company… if you fill all those things out, you might as well give them your social too. You are giving them way more information than a social security number. Joking aside, Facebook may know way more about you will ever care to admit regarding what to market to you… and they are getting better at it.

    Frankly, I don’t like it. However, I do admit it’s smart marketing which has shown to have a higher conversion rate than Google AdWords.

    Advances in targeted marketing, geo targeting, and proximity marketing are the ways of the future. Don’t get over it. It will be a continuous struggle to keep our rights on privacy and our information we feel is private, private.

  35. MsSphinx09

    May 11th, 2012

    I loved this article. It made me more aware of how I comment on social media sites, though I generally try to leave meaningful comments anyway. However, I’m kind of on the fence with this. As you said, voting up comments that are truly deep and add to the discussion is a useful feature, especially in videos where there are way too many comments to sift through. Also, the vote down button is used to snub ignorant and inflammatory comments if they receive enough negative votes.

    Unfortunately, I’ve sometimes clicked to view hidden comments that were voted down, not because of inflammatory statements, but because most people just disagreed with an opposing, yet completely well-put, view. Meanwhile, “Top Comment whores” get voted up because they ask for a “thumbs up.”

    I have to say, though, I’ve liked a few witty comments that made me laugh because, just as in normal conversations, you need those one-liners to keep the conversation interesting and enjoyable. The Internet doesn’t have to be a place solely dedicated to deep and philosophical conversation. It can be fun as well. We just have to be careful that the fun side doesn’t discourage free and open-minded discussion.

  36. Vinnie

    May 16th, 2012

    On youtube I have seen very stupid comments on there and getting a lot of thumbs up for. I see very little point in personally. However on Youtube theres a video rating bot on there that seems to mess with people’s likes and dislikes for a video especially if whoever is doing that doesnt like the content of a video.

    Personally I don’t see the use of thumbs up for gaining popularity. Also I noticed on youtube many people who may not be interested in a video often dislike a video probley without watching it especially on Viral Videos.

  37. George!

    Jun 2nd, 2012

    Could you tell me where the like button is….?!

  38. DanielVincentKelleyOnYT

    Jun 9th, 2012

    You should write an article on the aspect of this intentional “dumbing down conversation” on the internet is caused by The Pentagon employing comment bots to aggress against the US population, sow division and dominate the conversation to benefit their dominance of society. DARPA funds started up Google AND Facebook. Youtube had a 5 star rating system before Google bought it. Then they dumbed it down immediately and have been sabotaging the accounts of activists, respecting bogus copyright claims asserted by major media against fair use material that was posted with commentary. The internet is setup against The People. It takes a lot to break through that Pentagon wall and make any difference on the internet.

  39. Q

    Aug 12th, 2012

    I think you are overreacting on the voting system. When people go to sites like Youtube and Facebook, the material they watch will reflect what comments will be posted. When people see a funny comment they will like it. People don’t try to be edu. or make important comments on these sites. This even includes yahoo. These sites harbor funny comments or current memes/jokes. These sites are not “dumbing (sic)”users down becuase people are having a good time writing comments that reflect the video.

    seriously, like/dislike works differently for youtube/facebook-like the comment because it’s funny or very interesting, than amazon reviews-like the review cause it is helpful

  40. Xavier Portebois

    Oct 8th, 2012

    It’s curious anyone underlines that there are a lot of differences between a “Like/Dislike” system and a “Like” system (without thumbs down option).

    Dislike can be pretty discouraging for uncommon comment writers and therefore create a lead-writers-to-mass-readers structure. Putting such a button on your website comments can have a lot more impact than a simple Like button.

  41. Hazel

    Jan 1st, 2013

    i totally agree with you on this.

  42. Twain

    Jun 18th, 2013

    Hi,

    I link to this article on my website where I’ve created alternatives to current approaches of

    * thumbs up/down / Like
    * 5-stars
    * sentiment

    http://www.senseus.co

  43. Some Guy

    Jun 24th, 2013

    Thumbs up/down have it’s own meta-game. I like to post smart comment and get thumbs upped, that’s honor for me. Dispespect people who write nonsense such as:

    “thumbs up if you listen this in 2063″
    “126 people clicked dis I like button”

    But sometimes even overused ctrl-c ctrl-v phrase is so ironic in context, I will thumbs up it.

    I will automatically thumps down anyone who ask for thumbs up to a negative score, so it will teach them.

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