Prompted by recent events. The use of a Like icon (whether thumbs up or otherwise) is fine on social media for lots of things, but certain subjects and events should not be "liked" or use such a 'breezy' icon - for example the passing of a user, or a tragic event. The thumbs up/like paradigm is almost universally accepted when used appropriate, but it can cause UX problems when the context changes to something more serious.

So, is there any equivalent set of icons and words that might be substituted to indicate approval or agreement or expressing empathy with unfortunate news? Something other than an X or tick mark. (I am assuming some kind of sentiment analysis or metadata can detect the nature of the event automatically or by user selection.)

Any examples social media or community websites out that are good examples of sensitive ways to use wording and icons to handle this issue?

  • 1
    How about "support" with a simple up arrow? If you think about it, SE have a similar thing going on in that you might upvote something that you don't "like", e.g. the best answer to "Why shouldn't I do XYZ" might be a long list of negatives about XYZ. An upvote doesn't mean you like those negatives.
    – jlarson
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 0:57

2 Answers 2


Well, one example from the social media jungle out there would be Path.

I myself haven't used their app for at least a year, but back then they made a big thing of simplifying the browsing experiencing by not allowing you to comment any of your friends uploaded photos. Instead you responded to photos by choosing between four different smileys, :) ;D :O :(, or a heart icon.

You can read more about their emoticon-based solution here.

I myself kind of like their attempt to solve negative or mournful status updates that warrants something more suiting than just a generic "Like".


The like-button on social media is for positive events like you got a new job, a better bike, passed the exam, got the car you always wanted, baked home made bread, posted a photo of flowers,... Simple things that are easy to like. And more importently cannot be disliked.

But sensitive matters like I got an incurable disease, my pet died or my boyfriend left me for a man shouldn't be condensed to a button called dislike, thinking of you, take care. If you are nearby, visit your friend in need or if you are far away - give your friend a call. Software systems are not well suited for complex emotions.

More to read: Why Do You Like Bad News?

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  • 1
    Totally agree about not having a thumbs down for "dude that sucks". It would feel extremely inappropriate to "downvote/thumbsdown/whatever" someone being sick or something.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 22:07
  • @BenBrocka Thanks. Even if its incomparable, you see the same thing here. Those who contribute and get a down vote ask why they got it. That never happen on up votes. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 6:10

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