Know Thy Enemy

The new app EnemyGraph is causing a stir of controversy among Facebook users and Cyber-Safety experts. While the developers claim its main purpose is to equip Facebook users with the equivalent of a “dislike button,” social media commentators are worried about its potential use in cyberbullying.

The addition of a dislike button to Facebook has been debated for a few years. The official “Dislike Button Page” on Facebook reportedly has 3.2 million likes. It was this popular appeal that led a team from the University of Texas at Dallas to develop the app.

EnemyGraph developers are quick to point out that the terms and conditions clearly state that the app is not intended to be used for harassment, bullying, hate-mongering, incitement of violence or crime, or spam. Instead, it provides a way to connect with friends on shared dislikes, aversions, and bugbears. It the social media equivalent of the gripe session between friends that starts, “Don’t you hate it when…”

Things as disparate as raisins and racism have been listed as “enemies.” One of the developers points out that racism held eighth place in the top ten “enemies.” While movies, bands, and Microsoft are common targets, people–usually those with a high profile–are listed as enemies, including US political aspirant Sarah Palin and teen pop idol Justin Beiber.

What’s to stop a young user from disliking someone in their class? Since you can only make an enemy of someone who’s a friend, this is not only possible it’s likely. (Not to mention twisted. It’s the frienemy syndrome again.) There’s no disputing that this app could be a weapon in the hands of a bully.

From the perspective of a parent and a school counsellor, the advent of this app has alarm bells ringing. It’s true people can bond over shared pet peeves, but providing an app to declare enemies fosters negativity and is bound to be misused.

A big “dislike” from me.