Anti-social networking has been used to describe a number of phenomena. I first came across the term when reading about Cloak, the newest “Anti-Social” network that uses location data from Foursquare and Instagram to assist users (similar to the gossip girl map) in tracking their “friends” so that they can avoid running into them. I was initially appalled by the idea of avoiding so-called friends, but when you consider the prevalence of cyberbullying, breakups and arguments/fights that people experience with one another each day, it becomes evident that the anti-social network might have its place. Not alone in this realization, an email to the Washington Post predicts further advancement in this type of anti-social network. However, if the app allows you to see where “friends” are, surely they can see where you are and that you are avoiding them, potentially hurting an already fragile relationship?
Craving more information about this phenomenon, I headed to Urban Dictionary to see what they had to say about antisocial networking:
“Using a social networking web site or service to connect to other people but never communicating with those people once they have been established as a connection.”
Ok, slightly confused now.This doesn’t sound like the gossip girl map at all! Rather, the polite adding/accepting friend requests from of old school friends/people you meet a party, yet have no intention of actually communicating with them. Rather than anti-social networking, perhaps voyeuristic friendship is a more accurate description? By this stage I had well and truly jumped down the rabbit hole and curious as to what else anti-social networking could refer to. What I found was a more positive look, if that’s even possible, of anti-social networking.
In an article outlining the currently available anti-social networks on the market by Lauran Hockenson, it became clear to me that the aim of anti-social networking is not to remove friends, but rather the noise that prevents users from hearing and being social with their friends.
Um, what? That sounds pretty social to me!
The anti-social network definition that I find most appealing is just that, social; but without the bits that make online social networks tedious and frustrating. Whether you dislike the lack of face-to-face communication, the focus on being social rather than the artwork of Instagram, the public nature and lack on anonymity on Facebook, being “influence” to like, share, or view something, or are trying to avoid an awkward run in, there is an anti-social network for you. Ok, so some of these are actually anti-social behaviours, but really it is about finding a way of tailoring your social network to your needs and wants.
Some anti-social networks currently available (this list is taken from Hockenson’s article):
The same idea as Cloak, Hell is other People uses FourSqare to track “friends” so that they may be avoided.
A private message social network so that uses only share content with the people they want to.
Instagram without the comments and photos are “gifted” to other users
A social network that organizes in person meet-ups instead of encouraging users to stare at a screen.
An anonymous cookie and targeted ad free platform that encourages free speech.