the news is all abuzz today about “disliking.” late last night, as i drove home from visiting someone in neuro icu after spine surgery, i heard the news break on bbc radio. nestled between stories about syrian refugees and rawandan genocide was the news that facebook will be adding a dislike button to it’s site. intended, according to facebook’s founder, mark zuckerburg, to offer users a way of expressing empathy in response to sad or troublesome posts, the dislike option will be ready to beta test in the not too distant future. i must admit that i squirmed a bit when i realized that i wasn’t really paying attention to what i was hearing until i head the words “dislike” and “facebook.” here i was, in transit from a relatively emotionally intense situation, hearing about atrocities occurring to my fellow humankind and what piqued my interest was facebook? i felt sort of sick.
this morning, as i quickly scanned the tech world responses, i found that most early discussion appeared to be around how this feature might impact the tonal quality of interactions within the facebook community. as the day goes on, however, i am finding myself less aware of the actual dislike button and more aware of the larger issue of social networking as headline news even when the headlines it sits alongside of are tragic and dire.
in a culture where a 24 hour news cycle keeps us abreast of even minute nuances of current events, how numb have we become to ongoing global difficulties? when we’ve been flooded with information about the refugee crisis for a week is it possible that the facebook story piques our interest for the simple reason that it is new and applies, in very real ways, to something we interact with every day?
it is human to listen with an ear toward that which applies to one’s self. this means that we constantly filter that which we hear and see, categorizing information into groups such as “applies to me” and “doesn’t apply to me,” “things i think are important” and “things i couldn’t care less about.” in addition, as the information we encounter is increasingly based upon the digital path of breadcrumbs that every click we have made has produced, it is easier than ever to live in a world where we disregard or never encounter information that makes us wrestle with new ideas and realities. never before have we been able to live in a world wherein the only news we engage is news with which our own viewpoints, values, and world views are put forth.
so, today, as we notice headlines, commentaries, and editorials about social networking and new options for disliking as a sign of empathy, may we also seek out and notice the headlines that create in us complexity, deeper thought, discomfort, and, ultimately, growth toward a more lovingly connected world.