Making Facebook Enemies
[caption id="attachment_1297" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Image courtesy of Stuart Miles"][/caption] I really wish I had never said that I try to remain impartial on this blog. I swear, I do, but, here I am a few days after making that statement again feeling the need to express a strong opinion. The bonus here is that I am quite certain most of you will agree with me on this one. Facebook now has an ‘enemies’ app for its users. To which I can only reply: You have got to be kidding me. Introducing Enemy Graph As reported in PC Magazine on March 27, this new app was developed by Dean Terry and is officially called “Enemy Graph.” Launched last month, once users download this app onto their Facebook profile they will be able to designate people, businesses, brands, etc. as “enemies.” The idea, explains Terry, is to create a new brand of “social media blasphemy” which seeks to unite users based on shared dislikes rather than the already established “like” system. While Terry is quick to point out that one can only designate an “enemy” if he or she is already “friends” with that person, the larger implications of an app like this in the hands of cruel and judgmental teens is rather frightening. Aside from the rather disheartening concept of uniting people through shared hatred, the way that teens, cliques, and other ill-intentioned users can apply this application concerns me on many levels. Frienemies, Anyone? Frienemies…remember that term? The 15-year-old in me certainly does. Come to think of it, so does the 25-year-old, the 35-year-old and the 85-year-old. We come across “friends” in every corner of life that merely play act affection or genuine concern in order to get something from us. Be it information, work, or simply social standing, figuring out the real reason behind people’s “friendship” can be tricky at times. That is not to say that there aren’t many people who genuinely care about one another and many people who really want to be our friends. But the Mean Girls notion of being nice to people you really don’t like for fun or personal gain is alive and well outside of high school. The difference is, in the adult world, we understand the repercussions of publically designating ourselves frienemies. My biggest concern with the Facebook enemy app comes from this lack of social filter inherent in adolescence. Especially as it concerns special needs and LGBT kids trying to normalize through the internet, what effect will having yourself labeled an enemy exert on fragile self-esteem? Is It Worth the Price? Though the developers of Enemy Graph first envisioned this program as a critique of the Facebook “like” culture through “dissonance queries,” the information they have generated from this app has also proven invaluable for mining data from users based on shared aversions to brands, products, and public figures. Currently trending enemies include Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Westboro Baptist Church (you know, the guys protesting military funerals), Fox News, Justin Bieber and Internet Explorer. None of this is really surprising though and the very idea that we should extract advertising information from negative associations is itself troubling. As a writer-for-hire, as my Twitter profile so lamely advertises, I work on online ad copy and other marketing elements as much as I do content like this. So I understand the need to find new channels to exploit in order to increase profits and website hits. However, it is just this attitude that allows that apps like this to launch without much fanfare until there’s a problem. What Can We Do? Currently, Enemy Graph is still fixing a lot of the bugs inherent in a new app launch, so there isn’t a lot of activity currently and, as of this writing, only 2,155 users “like” it. But this is really a good thing. Because we are aware of this app before it has gotten a hold on children and teens, it is important to begin the conversation now about the use of words like “enemy” and the implications of making those kinds of designations on one’s Facebook profile.