‘Hell Is Other People’: An Anti-Social Network

The slick new app helps you avoid everyone you know. The catch? First you have to share exactly where you are

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[vimeo http://vimeo.com/65940846%5D

Want to avoid running into people you know at bars and restaurants? Hate stop and chats as much as Seinfeld creator Larry David?

While a location-based social network such as Foursquare helps you discover all the cool spots where your friends hang out, Hell Is Other Peoplea self-proclaimed “experiment in anti-social media” — maps where your friends are so that you can stay away from them. Foursquare users log on through Hell Is Other People’s website to launch a “Friend Map” powered by Google Maps and Foursquare, which shows where your friends are via orange dots based on their most recent check-in and recommends “safe distances” from them, illustrated via green dots. Here’s what mine looks like:

Picture 249

Hell Is Other People

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The app’s name is a famous line from writer and existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit. The site’s creator, Scott Garner — who is getting a master’s degree in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts — describes the experiment’s purpose:

This project is partially a satire, partially a commentary on my disdain for “social media”, and partially an exploration of my own difficulties with social anxiety.

Of course, the irony of this app is that you have to find your friends to hide from them. And for the program to work, your friends would have to be checking into places wherever they go so that the safe distances points can be calculated accurately. The video explainer above is basically a lonely, moving selfie in which Garner ends up discovering cool, new places around New York City as he tries to stay clear of friends.

The elegantly-designed app is just the latest digital backlash to our overconnected lives. About five or six years ago, a slew of humorous, anti-social media websites went viral, such as EnemyBook, a Facebook app that labels friends as enemies. Hatebook and Snubster became popular where people could share things they hated. Hatebook users create a “hate profile” where they can “upload somebody’s lies” or “publish secrets.”

Most current sites that have been dubbed anti-social networks try to limit the amount of information you share to people you know well, unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can connect to hundreds and thousands of people and share data indiscriminately. Path only lets users have 150 friends at most, while a social network like FamilyLeaf is limited to family members. And the appeal of Snapchat, the hip photo-sharing app of the moment, is that it deletes photos after up to 10 seconds, unlike Facebook where they can exist forever.

But if you really want to participate in an anti-social network, you’ll have to log off altogether.

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