French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote this line in his one-act play "No Exit": "L'enfer, c'est les autres." ("Hell is other people.")
If he were alive today he'd probably appreciate the subversive delight people are taking in a new not-so-friendly Facebook plug-in that lets you add enemies, not just friends on Facebook, and "dislike" stuff with a click of a button.
EnemyGraph is the brainchild of a college professor, Dean Terry, director of the new Emerging Media and Communications program in the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. Terry says he and his research team have been exploring the concept of social dissonance on Facebook.
The plug-in highlights the stuff and the people that you and others love to hate. Among the top-trending enemies are Justin Bieber and Internet Explorer. Top enemies are Rick Santorum (who recently solved his Google problem) and the Westboro Baptist Church.
Terry explains it this way in a blog post:
"Most social networks attempt to connect people based on affinities: You like a certain band or film or sports team, I like them, therefore we should be friends. But people are also connected and motivated by things they dislike. Alliances are created, conversations are generated, friendships are stressed, stretched and/or enhanced.
"Facebook runs queries to find affinities. EnemyGraph runs what we call dissonance queries. So if you have said you like, say, 'Portlandia' on your profile page, and in our app one of your friends has declared them an 'enemy' we will post this 'dissonance report' in the app. In other words we point out a difference you have with a friend and offer it up for conversation, as opposed to a similarity. Relationships always include differences, and often these differences are a critical part of the fabric of a friendship. In the country club atmosphere of Facebook and its platform, such differences are ignored. It's not part of their 'social philosophy.'
"EnemyGraph is a critique of the social philosophy of Facebook. On its developer splash page Facebook invites us to 'Hack the Graph' and so we did. We give them a couple of weeks at best before they shut us down for broadening the conversation and for 'utilizing community, building conversation and curating identity,' their three elements of social design. EnemyGraph is a kind of social media blasphemy.
"The ironic thing is, and this is a byproduct of the project rather than the intention, we are generating a whole new set of personal data that could potentially be mined. I found it a compelling tool for self-expression, at least as powerful as the likes list on your Facebook profile page. Often, it tells you a great deal about a person in a way that an affirmative list cannot."