We have myriad tech-enabled ways to encounter friends (and strangers!) in real life. We can check in on Foursquare. Tag a location on Instagram. Swipe on Tinder. Tweet, from just about anywhere.
The inevitable backlash has, at last, arrived: It’s called Cloak, and it’s an “antisocial network” that uses social check-ins and other geo-location information to help you avoid people you’d, well, rather not see.
Here’s how the app works. After downloading Cloak for the first time, you can connect it with Foursquare and Instagram (with more networks to come soon). Cloak then plots where your Foursquare and Instagram contacts are, according to their most recent check-ins. You can casually check the map, or — for exes, chatty neighbors and other undesirables — “flag” them to receive an alert when they pass within a preset radius.
The app is the work of programmer/”creative” Brian Moore and former Buzzfeed creative director Chris Baker. Baker, in particular, seems to specialize in vaguely misanthropic apps. He morphed his popular browser extension unbaby.me (which, as the name suggests, hides your friend’s annoying baby photos from your Facebook feed) into a full-blown start-up called Rather, which gets rid “of the stuff you hate on Twitter and Facebook.” Meanwhile, one of Baker’s other recent projects, “Hate with Friends,” lets you determine if you and a Facebook friend mutually dislike each other. The site will even alert you when a new friend hates you.
“Personally, I think we’ve seen the crest of the big social network,” Baker wrote in an e-mail. “Things like Twitter and Facebook are packed elevators where we’re all crammed in together … I think anti-social stuff is on the rise. You’ll be seeing more and more of these types of projects.”
Moore and Baker insist their work is more a legitimate tool than a parody, though there’s certainly plenty of room for both in the relentlessly pleasant realm of mainstream social media. Facebook users have, notably, called for a “dislike” button for years — yet so far, they only get variations on “like,” “heart” and “fan.” In Facebook’s world, there’s simply no space to be anything less than “friends” with everyone.
Maybe Cloak better mirrors actual human nature: social … but not infinitely so.