It’s happened to all of us. You’re enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant or running an errand in a grocery store, when you hear a familiar voice call your name …
and turn around to see that it’s either an ex you want nothing to do with, a relative who always asks when you’ll get married, or a person you know who is just plain obnoxious. You give a forced smile and think, “Oh god now I’m going to have to feign interest.”
Have no fear. Hell is Other People is here.
With this anti-social media app, users of Foursquare can access a friend map by logging onto the “Hell is Other People” website.
Time Magazine provides a good description of how this app works: “Friend Map [is] 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.”
By using foursquare data, the app calculates “safe Zones” around a city or “optimally distanced locations” where users can feel comfortable that they won’t run into their friends.
Site creator Scott Gardner describes Hell is Other People as an experiment in anti social media.
“The 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,” Garner notes.
Although foursquare seeks to assist users in discovering new locales based on what their friends like, Garner hopes HIOP will do the opposite by steering them away from places populated by their friends.
The Huffington Post points out that “Hell is Other People users can discover unexplored locales in the process of avoiding acquaintances, and counteract” what Garner sees as a homogenizing effect of social recommendation services.
“You end up in places that have no meaning, but are far from your friends. If you think about how Foursquare works, it says ‘your friends like this, so you might like this too.’ It has this homogenizing effect. You could see this [Hell Is Other People] as ‘No one you like goes to this place, so maybe you should try it to break out of this social sphere you’re operating in.”
Garner may also be creating a dialogue about the reality of the social network. Just as we find ourselves attempting to mirror the styles of those we label ‘hot,’ we might run the gamut of becoming followers. How many times have we looked through a list of friends’ pictures and thought “I want the life this person is having”? Social Networks need to be institutions that promote individuality, not conformity.
With a name based on the famous line from writer/existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte’s Play No Exit, site creator Scott Gardner describes Hell is Other People as an experiment in anti social media.