Will a new Facebook “enemy” app become its own worst enemy?

As a society, we equate the number of “friends” or “likes” we collect on our social networks with popularity and status, but how would we feel if we were tagged as an “enemy”? Hurt, confused, insecure, or even threatened?

Unfortunately, our fears may soon be a reality. EnemyGraph, a new free app for Facebook built by graduate students at the University of Texas, allows users to make an “enemy” of their “friends,” public figures, and companies with Facebook pages.

Dean Terry, director of the emerging media program at the university argues that the new app provides balance and that people often bond over their common dislikes.  That’s true, but do we need to promote the term “enemy?” So far, Facebook has resisted the addition of a “dislike” button.

Currently making the top of the “enemy” list are Justin Bieber, Facebook Timeline, racism, MacDonald’s restaurants, and Rush Limbaugh – all fair game we might agree. The numbers using the app are still too low to have any significant impact on reputation, but companies that don’t meet public expectations may have to watch this space in the future.

My concern is not for the public figures and companies who are now more adept at engaging in the social space and responding to negativity, but for individuals. In response to criticism suggesting this is a “bully app,” a statement on the app’s Facebook page offers, “You have to be Facebook friends with someone in order to make them an “enemy.” To our knowledge anyone using this function is doing it in jest.”

Naïve! Try telling that to an emotional teenager who has been publically shunned in front of his or her “friends.” For sure, some will use it in fun, just as they are “married” to their best friends, but there is a fine line between harmless fun and bullying. “Enemy” is a harsh term.

Since the app was launched, it has had several teething problems – with the rising number of negative comments from its users, the app may fast become its own worst “enemy.”

So far, Facebook has not joined the conversation. Perhaps it, too, is hoping the app will self-destruct. What do you think – is this app fair game or will it cause more harm than good?