The Facebook generation knows how to like something. If you watch a funny YouTube video, you only have to hit the “like” button to show your approval.

Now, downtown L.A. startup wants to teach social networkers a wider range of emotions.

“In a world of likes and fan buttons, the social web has painted an overly optimistic picture of everything,” said SendLove co-founder Chris Lyman. “You have to have the dissenting opinion in order to have a realistic perspective.”

Lyman and co-founder Corey Brundage launched SendLove on Aug. 9 as a way to gather opinions about public figures such as politicians, athletes and celebrities written about in blog posts or online news articles. Lyman’s previous startup was Fonality, a telecommunications firm in Plano, Texas, which he left last year.

When a blog or website signs up for SendLove, readers can vote for or against any person mentioned on the site by clicking on an emoticon heart – <3 – or sad face – :( – next to a name in an article. At the bottom of the article, SendLove shows the person’s total rating from votes across its network along with readers’ comments.

SendLove web pages display rankings for about 2 million public figures and reader comments. For example, President Obama has a 71 percent rating, far above his recent 40 percent approval rating nationally in the Gallup Poll.

SendLove is now a free service, financed by a $500,000 funding round. The seven-person company has about 150 sites signed up, including political blog

It is not making money now, but could in the future by selling ads or selling the polling information it gathers, among other possibilities. The company also could charge people to use it, but Lyman said he wouldn’t to that until SendLove’s audience grows.

Lyman started with the idea of rating people only, because he thought that would elicit the most responses. But he would consider expanding to companies and brands.

“I decided public figures were probably the safest bet to start with,” he said. “It’s much easier to say if you like or don’t like a celebrity or athlete.”

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