In Mark Zuckerberg’s second public Q&A currently being livestreamed, Zuckerberg discussed how Facebook won’t add a dislike button but wants to give more nuance to how people share emotions and reactions other than approval, and explained how he doesn’t think connecting with friends is a waste of time.
Zuck’s first public Q&A last month saw him tackle some of Facebook’s toughest questions and criticisms head on. The CEO explained that Facebook split off Messenger from its main app and forced people to download it for mobile chat to get people quicker replies from friends and a better experience. He addressed the decrease in organic Page reach, saying that since people Like more Pages and add more friends all the time, and everyone is sharing more content, but people spend a limited time browsing News Feed, competition naturally reduces reach over time.
Here’s today’s questions:
Judging by the success of the Like button, has there been any discussion of a dislike button?
“You know we’re thinking about it, on the Dislike button. It’s an interesting question, right, because there are two things that it can mean. And we’re considering and talking about doing one and not the other. So the one that we don’t want to do: The Like button is really valuable because it’s a way for you to very quickly express a positive emotion or sentiment when someone puts themselves out there and shares something. And, you know, some people have asked for a Dislike button because they want to be able to say ‘That thing isn’t good’. And that’s not something that we think is good for the world. So we’re not going to build that. I don’t think there needs to be a voting mechanism about whether posts are good or bad. I don’t think that’s socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives.
But the thing that I think is very valuable is there are more sentiments that people want to express than positivity or that they Like something. You know a lot of times people share things on Facebook that are sad moments in their lives, or are tough cultural or social things and often people tell us that they don’t feel comfortable press Like because Like isn’t the appropriate sentiment when someone lost a loved one or is talking about a very difficult issue.
So one of the things that we’ve had some dialogue about internally and that we’ve thought about for quite a while is what’s the right way to make it so people can easily express a broader range of emotions to empathize or to express surprise or laughter or any of these things. And you know you can always just comment, right, so it’s not like there isn’t a way to do that today, and a lot of people are commenting on posts all the time. But there’s something that’s just so simple about the Like button. You know if you’re commenting, a lot of the time you feel like you have to have something witty to say or add to the conversation.
But everyone feels like they can just press the Like button and that’s an important way to sympathize or empathize with someone in an important moment that put themselves out there to share. And giving people the power to do that in more ways with more emotions would be powerful, but we need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there. So that’s an important thing. We don’t have anything that’s coming out soon but it’s an important area of discussion.”
What’s a piece of advice you wish you had when you started Facebook?
Don’t worry about making mistakes too much. People ask what mistakes I wish I could have avoided. But mistakes are how you learn. The real question is how you learn from them. I started out when I was so young I didn’t know anything about running a company. You gotta keep on powering ahead and not stress too much about it.
What do you think about Facebook being a waste of time?
We grow up and go to school and then are told to socialize after your homework. That’s so pervasive in society, that people think I have to get all my work done before I focus on my friends or family, and I think that’s wrong. My friends and family, that’s what matters. I don’t think connecting with them is a waste of time at all.
Why can’t I change my name?
It’s easier to find someone on the service if they use the real name instead of some fake screen name. Some people want to defraud people or trick them, and do bad things, if you’re connected to your real world identity you’re more accountable, rather than if you’re connected to some fake handle. It’s about creating a safe community.
How does Facebook contribute to civic engagement and discussion?
Facebook’s role in civic debate is bringing you more opinions. If something big happened, you might have read about it in just a few newspapers, but we want everyone in the world to have a voice. That’s a pretty new thing in the world. People turn to Facebook when there’s unrest. I think is important to have diversity of opinion. On Facebook, even if you’re republican or democrat you probably have some friends in the other camp. If you‘re christian, or jewish, or muslim, you probably have friends from another religion. So on Facebook you hear opinions from people who are different from you.
Why are there so many privacy updates?
What is Facebook doing around outreach to youth in the nearby community to help kids create their own companies?
We want to be good citizens in the community. Whether that’s having programs at local middle schools and high schools to come here and get trained, or summer internship programs. I taught a class on entrepreneurship. I think I learned more than I taught. There are always going to be more things like that that we want to do. We support the local police. I’ve personally donated to the local Ravenswood health center. If there are things we can do to be better citizens to the community and Bay Area, we’d love to hear suggestions.
What are some habits that you think led to your success?
I try to use my time proactively. I try to spend the majority of my time on things I want to be working on. The most important thing is to be putting your time into things you want to see happen, not what other people want. You have to be responsive to the community, but I think any entrepreneur or anyone would say it’s easy to see your time eaten up.
What pizza topping do you want?
Why is coding so important?
It’s one of the few disciplines where you can sit down, write code for a few hours, and come away with something concrete that’s valuable for the world. I think it’s an important way for young people to express themselves. If you can code, you have the power to sit down and create something, and no one can stop you. Around half of the people at Facebook are technical. Even for people who don’t write code, understanding engineering is valuable no matter what you want to do, so we’re supportive of efforts in the community to help people learn to code.
How do you balance the need for improving your products with ethical concerns around experimentation on users?
There was this press about a report that a Facebook data scientist released this summer, and we took it as an opportunity to tighten things up. We think the only way we can make our product better is to try out things and get feedback from the community. We’ll try new features, and different ways of showing things in the News Feed. We try things to make Facebook faster. We try to have a positive impact with everything we roll out to the community. Testing is an important part of Facebook.
My wife is a doctor, and there’s an assumption that there’s a consequence of any test you run, and there’s a belief that every test’s potential benefit needs to outweigh the risks. There are some things we shouldn’t test. Anything with young people, or sensitive communities is something we need to be especially careful about, or anything around emotions or psychological well-being. Ee need to make sure people internally don’t have the ability to test on things that could hurt people.
The study we did was because there was press that seeing posts about happy moments in people’s lives on Facebook made people sad because they feel like they’re missing out. We don’t want to make people sad. We have a responsibility to understand the impact of Facebook. We ran a relatively small study, showed people more or fewer happy posts and measured if they were posting happy or sad things afterwards. If something’s happening on Facebook that’s going to have a negative effect on society, I think it’s our responsibility to change it to have a more positive effect. We need to make a change so if an engineer wants to run a test, people at Facebook check to make sure it’s something acceptable to test.
Facebook might make some people anti-social. Do you ever think about helping people to make connections in real life as well?
A lot of what Facebook tries to do is help you stay connected to the people you already know, rather than trying to help you meet new people. I think that’s an important role in society. What defines a tool is it takes a human ability and augments it. I wear glasses and that enhances my vision. Bicycles and cars extend our ability to move around. Steve Jobs described computers as a bicycle for the mind. What we’re trying to do with Facebook and social networks overall is enhance the ability to maintain relationships. Research says people can only maintain relationships with 150 people at a time, and we want to expand that. There are people I see on Facebook and I see the important events in their life. Or if my family is traveling somewhere else, I can’t be there to experience it in person. We want to extend the human capacity to have empathy and relate to more people.
If I have an option to see my wife or mom in person, I’ll take that over a phone call or talking to them on Facebook. In person is a high bandwidth, richer way of communicating. But Facebook helps us communicate with more people.
How should I teach my child about Facebook?
I try to think about it because I don’t have any children. On one hand, I remember being really young and using technology and I thought it was pretty positive. Sometimes I think society has an overbearing attitude that children don’t know how use do things right.
We want to take care of our family. Bullying is a real issue and something we take really seriously. We work with local law enforcement and school administrators to make sure there’s no bullying on the platform, and things like real names help with that.
I would follow our rules. We don’t allow people under 13 to use Facebook. After that, I’d probably talk to them about it. I‘d want my children to use technology to gain an understanding of the modern world and banning it isn’t a way to help them learn what’s out there. But you want to be in constant dialogue and make sure to report anything that’s harmful. We need to continue doing our best to make sure that goes away.
Overall, Zuckerberg seemed confident and affable during the Q&A, though he frequently relied on saying “That’s a really good question” and “That’s something Facebook takes really seriously” to buy himself time to formulate answers. Still, it’s impressive that he would be willing to so directly and publicly respond to some of the company’s harshest criticisms.