If social networking is all about making new friends and reconnecting with old ones, what is an app to avoid friends doing on our smart phones wonders Neeti Sarkar

Friendship in the time of social media has turned rather schizophrenic. While on the one hand you have Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites which are all about making new friends and staying in touch with old ones; on the other there is a new Smartphone app that informs you of your friends whereabouts and suggests the best possible routes to avoid them!

The experimental anti-social media app was created by Scott Garner, a graduate student at New York University. The app named “Hell Is Other People” (was Sartre thinking of Facebook?) utilises FourSquare - a location-based social networking website for mobile devices - to track check-ins made by friends to determine the best routes and areas to avoid them.

The Web app is simple to use. First, a person connects his or her FourSquare account through Hell is Other People. Then, the Web app conjures up an avoidance map. The map contains orange and green points. Orange points indicate check-ins by other users, and green points represent “optimally distanced safe zones,” as suggested by the app.

This innovation makes one question the very essence of friendship and if social networking is actually as much about disconnecting from people as it is about making connections.

While Harsha PJ, proprietor of iRepair, feels: “It seems like an easy way out to avoid an awkward moment or an unwanted confrontation/conversation,” Mohammed Younus, a behavioural trainer says: “In an era of connectivity I cannot imagine why anyone would find ways to disconnect. I really wonder if this app is designed by a loner or for loners. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to plan and avoid people.”

Concurring with this opinion is PR executive Sagarika Bhattacharya who states: “For the kind of life that I lead I have never felt the need to let technology decide so much for me. Meeting someone ‘not so friendly’ can be a turn-off no doubt, but that doesn’t call for such ‘espionage’ services to make sure I avoid them so fervently. Friendship in the times of social media has truly attained newer dimensions. However, let’s not use it to create virtual enmity!”

“We should have expected a situation like this anyway,” says sociologist Sushil Chandranath, adding: “People make friends on Facebook and soon enough block them. We go online and to avoid someone we turn invisible. From giving out fake numbers and making excuses that we didn’t reply because we didn’t receive their text to blaming bad network for not returning a call, avoiding friends is as common as dirt!”

You no longer need crises to find out true friends—you just need another app!