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Would You Want to Know Who I Dislike?

A long time ago, back when Friendster was a hip place to hang out online (trust me, it was.  All the cool kids were there.  Ignore anything else you may have heard about Friendster), Josh made a joke about a doppelganger site called “Not Your Friendster” for those times when you not so subtly want to tell someone that you don’t like them.  He imagined it being most people’s homepage on their computer, this troll-like spot that people couldn’t help but look at even though it upset them no end and caused a considerable amount of stress.  In this scenario, Josh would talk about the poor office worker walking past all the cubicles, his office mates sticking their heads out to look at him sympathetically as he did the death march down the hallway to boot up his computer and see what they had already seen on Not Your Friendster that morning… that Matt hates Jeff.

It was a joke because it was so over-the-top insane.  Who the hell would want to publicly tell people that they disliked someone?

It turns out that people do.

Mashable had a story yesterday about a new app called EnemyGraph that allows you to add your “enemies” on Facebook. (Isn’t enemy a strong word?  I mean, there are people I dislike, but in that dislike, I ignore them.  Enemy connotes an active, passionate dislike that uses your attention.  I don’t know if it’s exactly the same thing as Facebook using “friend”)  Those enemies may be things (crickets), organizations (Westboro Baptist Church) or other people on Facebook.

I can think of a few examples where it would be useful to know what someone dislikes.  I, for instance, might put down perfume.  And then you would know, if you were looking to get me a birthday present, that perfume wasn’t the way to go.  Of course, we could also go the more positive route and look at things I do like and choose something off of that list, but it’s also good to know sometimes what to avoid.

But beyond that, how would it be helpful to list people you dislike?  Sure, there are people I dislike in this world, and some are even on Facebook, but I think about our poor office worker — Jeff — and his walk towards his computer with everyone staring at him.  The world knowing that Matt hates Jeff.  So Jeff not only gets to feel the emotions of having a bad relationship with Matt, but he also gets the humiliation from everyone else observing his bad relationship with Matt.  I can’t think of any example — except perhaps not inviting that person into the threesome you’re proposing — where it would be helpful to know who other people dislike.  Person A’s feelings about Person B don’t change my feelings about Person B if I consider Person B my friend.

Have you ever found yourself written about on a troll site?  I have.  It’s a fairly crappy experience.  I once found a blog that talked about how my kumbaya-ness made her sick.  She had several posts in a row mocking me.  Later on, she asked to be added to the blogroll, and she’s still on there now.  It was difficult to swallow hard and add her, but I’ve always seen the inclusion of people on the blogroll as community-driven, not my individual decision (okay, I had to do more than just swallow hard.  I had to turn to Josh, call this woman a bunch of names in the privacy of my own home, and then add her).  But my point is that she gave me every opportunity to read her thoughts about me.  She wrote them on her blog and then sent her blog to me to ask to be included on my blogroll.  She wanted me to read them, and I have to wonder about people like that.

On a side note, more recently, I had someone write something rude about me online in a space where she knew I would read it.  I read it and felt awful, but moreover, it was an interesting moment because I have deleted exactly one non-SPAM comment from my blog ever.  It was from an anonymous commenter who expressed glee over this person’s loss when I wrote about this blogger in a Friday Blog Roundup.  When I saw the comment about her left on my post, I jumped on the computer and quickly deleted it because I was so afraid that this blogger, already in a sensitive space, would see it and it would damage her further.  To this day, she has no idea that I saved her from feeling like crap.  So it was even more interesting for me to see that contrast — I tried to save her from ever feeling like crap by being directly discussed on the Internet, and she purposefully tried to make me feel like crap by just being honest in her thoughts of me.  While I was reading this Mashable article, I considered emailing it to her with a note about how she might find it useful.

Just to be clear: I am not a saint.  I have inadvertently hurt people’s feelings too.  We all have.  But there is a difference between — let’s say — not inviting someone to a party that they find out about (inadvertent hurt feelings) and adding that person’s name to EnemyGraph (purposefully hurt feelings).

Because the reality is that it’s not just troll sites or mean bloggers who write crappy things about other people online that the subject can end up seeing.  We just talked about Jason Russell encountering blog posts about him this week.  Anything you put on the Web about another person, regardless of how well-hidden you think it is, has the potential to be found by the person you are speaking about.  Even if you write anonymously.  Even if you don’t link to the other person.  Even if you misspell their name so it isn’t Googleable.  Even with all of those “evens” there is a chance.  It helps me to look at my posts before I hit publish keeping that in mind: how would that person feel if they found it?

Sometimes, that person is going to feel crappy.  No two ways about it.  Aliza Shvarts is an example that comes to mind.  I wrote about her actions, and I own that.  I try not to name people — even when I am being careful and discussing the actions and not the person herself (after all, I don’t know Aliza Shvarts.  For all I know, she is a lovely woman) — mostly because I don’t want the focus to be person.  I want the focus to be the actions.  So whenever possible, I don’t name the person (see, like the bloggers above whose actions were just discussed, but you most likely don’t know who they are so they can save face.  If you do know who they are, I would appreciate you not naming them in the comment section).

This is why EnemyGraph is so bizarre to me: you’re doing the exact opposite — not giving any context or discussing actions but instead naming the person, organization, or thing without giving the reason for what bothers you.

How would you feel if you saw your name on someone else’s EnemyGraph?  What if you saw your friend discussing a third person you know (and like) in that manner?  Would you do anything?  Would you simply shrug and say, “to each their own”?

The topic of friendship and the way we interact with one another has been on my mind as of late because I’m reading MWF Seeking BFF.  More thoughts on the more pleasant side of humans interacting when I finish it and collect all the ideas I’ve been marking in the margins.


1 Erica { 03.27.12 at 1:06 pm }

I was reading about EnemyGraph earlier in the week and thought it was an interesting social experiment (and to be fair, I think it was created as a social experiment and as a critique of the way Facebook uses the word “friend”). But I also felt, strongly and instinctively, that it wasn’t an experiment I wanted to participate in.

I think part of why I feel this way is that when people sign up for Facebook initially (and EnemyGraph is riding on Facebook) they entered into a particular kind of social contract, one of “friending” and “liking.” To change that contract, even through an optional app – well, that’s a big change & I’d act differently under that kind of contract – more private posts, fewer photos, fewer casual connections, less sharing of links, for instance.

Reading your post, I guess this experiment has already been successful in generating some real thought about social networking, but you think seriously about these issues in the first place. I don’t know if the average Facebook will really take this as an opportunity to think deeply about online connections, and I can’t believe that public “enemy” lists will do social networks much good.

I also wonder – if Dean Terry and his graduate students are doing this as a research study, it’s remarkably free of the standard institutional research standards & best practices (such as explaining to potential participants the risks and benefits of being in the study). And maybe it should be, since it’s out there in the wild, wild web. But I don’t fully believe that, either. Researchers should set high ethical standards for themselves and their projects regardless of whether or not they legally *have* to.

Sorry for the ramble. This is fascinating, provocative, and kind of scary stuff!

2 k { 03.27.12 at 1:17 pm }

This just screams high school (and jr. high school) bullying venue to me. I don’t think there’s any benefit to it at all. Just like there’s zero benefit to a high school girl telling another girl she shouldn’t be friends with so-and-so for whatever reason. I think it has a huge potential for abuse, and appeals to the most awful parts of us. Facebook, for all it’s evils (and there are many) at it’s core is a way of connecting people, and I’ve seen it do so in such positive ways. What good can come of a site like this?

3 missohkay { 03.27.12 at 1:36 pm }

I have said many times that I am very grateful I didn’t grow up in a world with social media. My self-esteem was fragile enough as a teen without facebook, “am I pretty?” videos on youtube, or enemygraph. Yikes.

4 Becky { 03.27.12 at 1:54 pm }

I just wonder about the “why” of it all. I mean why does someone feel the need to label a person with that strong of a word, and why then put it out there for the entire flippin’ world to see? Are there people who I seriously dislike? Why, yes, there are. But what in the world is the benefit of putting it out there like that?!

And I agree with K that the bullying aspects of it scare me. I mean, middle and high schoolers are already cruel enough to each other at times. Why in the hell do they need yet another venue to do it in?!

5 Meghan { 03.27.12 at 2:07 pm }

I had someone blog about a private conversation once and it was terrible so no, I would never participate in something called enemy graph. The whole concept of it screams of emotional abuse and bullying. Given how much of that is already on the Internet, it hardly seems we need an entire networking site devoted to it.

6 Katie { 03.27.12 at 2:20 pm }

Until about a month ago, I never deleted negative comments on my blog. Then, over the course of a few weeks, I received multiple anonymous comments that were very hurtful. I had to delete them to protect my own feelings.

You know, I grew up hearing that stupid phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and I’ve sworn up and down that I will never say that phrase to my child – because words DO hurt. The thought of an app that encourages such hateful behavior saddens me. It proves to me that bullying isn’t simply a middle or high school issues. We, as adults, have to deal with it, too. We should be above and beyond that kind of behavior, and we aren’t. What a shame.

7 a { 03.27.12 at 2:38 pm }

You know, I have a pretty good spidey sense about who doesn’t like me, so I am rarely surprised to find these things out. Odds are pretty good that I didn’t like them either – I learned early on (in my own social experiment) that it’s really not worth the effort to try to befriend someone who’s not really interested. It can be done – it just is probably not worth the cost.

As a person who is more pragmatic and rational than emotional when it comes to relationships, it might bother me a little to see my name on someone’s enemy graph…unless I felt like I had done something to earn the spot.

I have been in the position of hearing someone talk about a mutual friend behind their back. If I hadn’t heard the mutual friend talk about the person in terms of respect and friendship, I would have kept my nose out of it. But I can’t let something like that pass when I suspect that something even more damaging could come of it. (I’ve done it on the internet too – but on the internet, what you get is “you don’t own the internet! I can say what I like and if you already said something similar, well that’s just how it is.”)

8 Casey { 03.27.12 at 2:41 pm }

Irksome beyond belief. Can’t believe they were even allowed to do this. My recent experience has taught me plenty about the not so nice side of the blogosphere, but this is ridiculous. How would I feel if I found myself on somebody else’s enemy list? Well, I’d obviously be hurt…but if I saw somebody being discussed whom I knew and liked, I’d be positively incensed. Civility be damned, I would then have to say something. Great, insightful post on this eerily timely topic.

9 It Is What It Is { 03.27.12 at 2:45 pm }

Here is the bigger question for me: What does that say about a person that they need to publicly post who their ‘enemies’ are? What kind of “look at me” low self-esteem or extreme narcissism does someone need to possess to want to do this much less actually do it?

I know which of my former friends have blocked me from ever finding them on FB (which is so easy to figure out, although some have even blocked my husband, so it does take a little more effort to determine that they have blocked me) but I doubt that they hate me (and if they do, it says more about them as a hater than it does about me as the hated, I think, as hating someone takes effort and energy vs. the ‘you are dead to me’ approach that I generally take).

It is odder still that others would care. Who has that much time on their hands? And, this is confirmation that idle hands do the devil’s work.

10 JustHeather { 03.27.12 at 3:46 pm }

Yuck. The word enemy ranks right up there with the word hate, for me. Very powerful words and ones that shouldn’t be used lightly.

I’ve had enough run ins with people who didn’t like me in the face to face world that I definitely don’t need to nor want to deal with it in the electronic world. Plus, it just seems an absolute waste of time, emotion and effort.

11 Tiara { 03.27.12 at 4:05 pm }

Gee, I thought I was a Cool Kid until realizing I’ve never hear of Friendster…thanks for bursting that bubble, Mel!

Seriously though, it’s taken me a long time, many self-help books & a lot of soul searching to get to the place I am now & not care if I ended up on a site like you mention…I’m reminded of this Neil Young lyric, “It doesn’t mean that much to me to mean that much to you”

12 sass { 03.27.12 at 4:07 pm }

There is a lot of food for thought here. I am new to the internet blogging world, and as far as I know, no one has ever been purposefully mean to me or about me, and I hope that I haven’t been mean to anyone else. (I did experience a misunderstanding, and it was upsetting, but thankfully I was given the opportunity to explain and apologize.)

The internet is a strange place, though. My favorite toy store in my old town hosted a “Big Day” for a very sick young girl who had been cyber-bullied, but then who had seen a group of people on the internet rally around her. The extreme nastiness and giving was amazing to see.

13 m. { 03.27.12 at 4:11 pm }

I am exactly where missohkay is on this one – the potential for deep emotional, pre-teen scars here are massive. Massive. Thin-skinned little me needed months of therapy after one or two It girls in junior high decided I was their target for Mean because it was funny. I cannot imagine the havoc they could have wreaked with something like enemygraph. Oh, it makes me want to reach out and hold all of the potential victims in my arms and tell them, “it gets better. these people suck. and some day they will look like absolute shit at one of your reunions.”

If I saw my name on EG, I would wince, but I doubt anything would come as a surprise. I’m pretty sure I know who doesn’t like me. But hey, what if someone listed you because they got you confused with someone else? I am constantly mistaken for other people on the street. Oh hey aren’t you (my cousin’s best friend’s sister from grade school?) um. no. But what if that person listed me on EG thinking I WAS, and then I spent half the day trying to figure out wtf is this person who hates me? Wasted energy all around.

14 KH99 { 03.27.12 at 4:23 pm }

I’m honestly a little surprised it has taken this long for something like EG to be created. If I were to see my name on it, I would be crushed. I think I have a good idea who doesn’t like me and for some reason, probably paranoia, I have a feeling that there have been some back channel convos on Twitter about it among a few people. I really don’t know why I think that, but my intuition has been pinging lately. And then I remind myself that I’m 34-fracking-years old and that if someone doesn’t like me, that’s ok. I’ve been mocked before and I’ll get over it. There are people I don’t like too although I wouldn’t put it on EG.

If I saw a friend discussing someone I liked like that, I like to think I would ask them why they felt that way and have an honest conversation about it. I don’t think I would necessarily try to change their mind, but I would talk to them.

EG is a horrible idea. Ugh.

15 Her Royal Fabulousness { 03.27.12 at 5:47 pm }

It’s really funny you posted this today. Over the weekend, I found a particularly nasty online comment made about my teaching. Now, I teach elementary school, and the comment was obviously from a child and not a parent. But OMG did it sting. I mean seriously. I know I’m on Lupron right now but I could.not.let.it.go. for days.

I would avoid that damn site like the plague for my own sanity. I am a generally well adjusted and self-confident adult, but that kind of thing gets to the most vulnerable part of my psyche. I definitely need a thicker skin. But, in the meantime, I want nothing to do with something that is specifically set up to hurt my feelings.

16 mrs spock { 03.27.12 at 5:58 pm }

Although we are all probably little Nixons at heart, that indulgence should be private, brief, and followed by reflection and contrition. Adults ought to know better than to create more chaos and enmity in this world.

17 Jo { 03.27.12 at 6:38 pm }

I teach 5th grade girls. I can tell you — without a moment’s hesitation — that this toold would be DEADLY in their hands. I love my students, but bullying has been an issue all year long. For them to be able to post something like this ONLINE (and not just on a piece of paper) to live forever? Unacceptable, abhorrent, and would undoubtedly have tragic consequences.

18 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.27.12 at 7:52 pm }

I would take it very hard if I found myself listed on EnemyGraph. Even though I know at a rational level that it’s the listing person’s deal, not mine, it would feel like a punch in the gut. For days.

If I saw someone talking about a friend, I think I would point it out to see if doing so might shame them into changing their behavior (much as Ghandi shamed the British to get them out of India, by showing them how unbecoming their actions were for civilized people).

I find it hard to understand people who get a charge out of being hated. Like Ann Coulter, Rosie O’Donnell, The Donald. They seem to puff up at being someone’s enemy. So not me.

19 Justine { 03.27.12 at 9:00 pm }

I read the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article about this (http://chronicle.com/article/Social-Media-Blasphemy-An/131300/), and had a lot of different reactions, some of which have been covered above. Yes, there will be cyber-bullying, though I’m not sure it will be any more pervasive than it already is in Facebook, or in any other media. (And for the record, I’m the sort of person who would get upset over being someone’s “enemy” (heck, I wring my hands when I lose a blog follower).)

And I’m not sure that this gets people to think critically about social media or about Facebook, unless they’re already doing so, which *was* its intent. (I find it ironic that they were not allowed to use the term “Dislike.” So Facebook OWNS that?)

There was another article in Slate a while back about Facebook, which I think is apropos here: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/01/the_antisocial_network.html … while it’s not about making enemies, it talks about how Facebook creates an unrealistically happy-go-lucky world that leaves many people feeling inadequate, disconnected, and depressed. I know sometimes on bad days it does that for me. Maybe EG just makes evident some of the darkness that it already there? How *does* one stage protest against social media, if not by counter-app?

(Not defending them here, just noodling over it.)

20 Pale { 03.27.12 at 9:34 pm }

I love this, “While I was reading this Mashable article, I considered emailing it to her with a note about how she might find it useful.”

Intrigued by MWF Seeking BFF. Can’t wait to hear more. Must. Not. Download. Every. Title. That. Sounds. Good ….

EnemyGraph. I’m sure I would be utterly incapable of not giving it more energy than it deserved. Me and my thin skin. As you say, I’d have to wonder about the kind of people who find this “communication” or “free expression” tool useful. … I’m sure this one will be crawling around in my brain for a couple of days now.

As far as whether I’d tell a friend … I’d have to weigh the potential benefits of knowing against the potential damage of knowing or not knowing … and make a judgement call. Some things you are just better off not knowing. I have also seen many situations where someone pretended to do a ‘favor’ by passing on hurtful information that caused nothing but pain when the knowledge changed absolutely nothing for the better. I think that’s pretending to be the mere messenger when you are really more destructive than innocent at heart.

I am pretty protective of people I care about … it might be hard for me not to find a way to lip off about it or go all Momma Bear if I thought the person was being utterly mean, inaccurate or unfair. I guess if I could see their point, I might be more tempted to leave well enough alone.

I think it’s really interesting that a popular spam on twitter right now claims to have seen someone trashing you or posting bad photos of you … just to get you to click on their polluted link. Totally calculated to get that OMG, knee-jerk reaction. Just like a lot of FB and social media … they have found a way to make money off of our basest human instincts and insecurities. A sure thing, right?

21 Esperanza { 03.27.12 at 9:34 pm }

I have to say, this is the first time I’ve heard of EnemyGraph and I don’t really understand the point of it. I feel that declaring your dislike of someone in a completely arbitrary and unproductive way like that seems to hurt you more than the other person. When you declare you don’t like someone just for the sake of declaring it you risk alienating a lot of people, not only the ones that like that person but also the ones that don’t like conflict or people who feel negatively towards others.

Having said that, there are times when people say (or post) something that had the intention of being constructive or productive but was construed by some as mean or hurtful. There are a lot of reasons that can happen, either ther person saying/posting made the point carelessly or in an unintentionally belligerent way or the person reading it took it differently than it was intended either because they just misconstrued the message or were too close to the content matter to be hear/read it constructively.

We all say things that hurt others, you even admitted to doing so yourself in this post we would be remiss to assume otherwise of ourselves or anyone else And sometimes, even when we’re told what we say/write hurts others we still feel the message is important enough to stand by our words, despite the hurt they cause. And sometime, even if we retract those words the damage has been done. That doesn’t mean we are trying to create enemies but I guess sometimes it can happen.

I’ll be curious to see where EnemyGraph goes. I really do fail to see te point, except to ignite conflict and cause pain. And while some people enjoy that kind of thing it seems most, thankfully, don’t.

22 Pale { 03.27.12 at 10:00 pm }

I just dug this link up from NPR (via FB)
Facebook May Not Be So Friendly For Those With Low Self-Esteem

23 Kacey { 03.27.12 at 11:28 pm }

My estranged abusive father started a hate blog about me (after trolling me on Twitter and my own blog) and then spammed all my Twitter followers with the link. So, no, I don’t understand it. Why deliberately hurt people’s feelings, why do people care whether the people they dislike know it. All I want from people I don’t get along with is to be left alone.

24 Barely Sane { 03.27.12 at 11:51 pm }

Interesting….. scary….. and another thing I have to add to my list of “omg, I never had to grow up with this how the heck am I going to help MG navigate it when she’s old enough” things.
Oddly enough, just today I had a conversation with her about something minor and truly meaningless when she used the word “hate”. I was taken aback and said it was a pretty strong word to describe the item to which she replied “well, I just don’t like it” That led to a conversation about the differences between the two and how we need to be careful when we are speaking about a person. Somehow, she seemed to “get it” when I put it that way.

25 marwil { 03.28.12 at 7:08 am }

No, I don’t need to know who you or anyone else dislike. I can’t see how this information can do anything good at all. I probably would discuss the issue with my friend if I saw something going on about someone I do care about. And if I found my name, well, I guess it depends who it is but I would be hurt by it on some level, that’s for sure.

26 mare { 03.28.12 at 7:41 am }

I don’t want to know, or read about, who others dislike. If I saw myself discussed on such a website, I would be very hurt. I am a really sensitive person who, like you, goes out of my way to not intentionally hurt others. Even though there are many people I dislike, I would not participate in a public shaming of them or feel the need to advertise my dislike. If I saw someone I cared about being discussed negatively by a friend of mine, I would for sure say something.

Although I disagree with the concept of the website you discussed, I can see why it would be entertaining for others. I am not perfect, I listen to the gossip at work and am sometimes entertained by it, and I definitely rant to my husband about certain people in our life; however, this just seems different to me. It reminds me of the Scarlet Letter in the public shame aspect of listing your “enemies” for all to see.

27 loribeth { 03.28.12 at 9:49 am }

I like to THINK I wouldn’t be hurt if my name appeared on such a site — that I don’t have any real enemies — but of course I would be hurt. Even mildly critical comments on my blog have “ouch” power.

And I agree that it does seem like something out of 5th grade. Thank God there was no Internet then!!

28 Keiko { 03.28.12 at 3:37 pm }

Oh look. Yet another internet phenomenon that is a) new to me and b) is it really helpful to the greater masses?

I would love to know if I was on someone’s EnemyGraph. As they say, “Keep your friends close, and your enemy closer.” I would go out of my way to not let that person know that I know I’m on their EnemyGraph, rather, I’d go out of my way to be sunny, cheerful, and otherwise annoy the shit out of them with overabundant love and lovingkindness.

Because there’s nothing like killin’ em with kindness, amirite?

I do it all the time. I could waste my time thinking negatively, thinking negative, awful thoughts about that person. Or, I could spin it and go over the top to be friendly, cheerful, and promote them where I can. B/c then they end up looking like dicks for putting me – precious sweet ol’ me – on their EnemyGraph.

Here’s what I think in general about social networks and internet platforms like EnemyGraph – they thrive on the dark side of the internet. They thrive on the population of internet users who have never heard the phrase “Don’t feed the troll.” B/c really, that’s what EnemyGraph is – organized trolling.

As for seeing someone else talk trash about someone, depending on the situation, I rarely step in, believe it or not. I step back, observe, and start to get a more accurate picture of someone I thought I knew, but gain a clearer picture of their real character. I analyze, file it away for later, and know that I might limit my own interactions with that person b/c if they’re willing to talk trash about a mutual connection – who knows what they might be saying about me to others?

It all boils down to this… why waste my time on such negative shit smearing in the internet when I can better spend my efforts making good, lasting positive change?

29 eve { 03.29.12 at 7:03 pm }

I wouldn’t want to know a thing about my name on this ridiculous site. I am completely dumbfounded by the sheer amount of time people have to be so selfishly unproductive.

30 Chickenpig { 03.31.12 at 9:58 am }

I’m with Jo. At it’s best, it sounds self involved and unnecessary, at it’s worse…plain nasty. In the hands of tween girls it could be a disaster.

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