When we talk about social networks, we think of Facebook that allows you to extend friendship, or LinkedIn that helps you to build professional connection, or Twitter that informs you of the latest news around the world. After all, these are all GOOD things, and that’s probably why we love using them.
Then, would you use an app that allows you to leave reviews of anyone you know, just like you rate restaurants on Yelp? “Peeple,” the people-rating app aims to profit from this function, was launched in controversies last month. (Read the news here and here.) According to one of the co-founders, she sees no reason “why you wouldn’t want to showcase your character.” Their website also says “the Peeple app allows you to better choose who you hire, do business with, date, become your neighbors, roommates, landlords/tenants, and watch, teach, and care for your children.”
When I first heard of this app, however, I just found it terrifying, especially considering that you could not opt out to be reviewed by someone else. Like many people else, I’m concerned about the possibility of being bullied or threatened. There are definitely some rules on the platform that tries to prevent bad things from happening, but the idea of being “rated” like an object itself is already haunting.
Now that after yesterday’s discussion on structural balances, I found it interesting to revisit the app. An important takeaway from yesterday’s class was the fact that “missing links might just be negative links.” That explains why people on Facebook do not “friend” with someone they should know according to the triadic closure assumption. From a psychological perspective, it is understandable that in most cases people prefer to simply cut off the links with people like ex-boyfriend or ex-boss, but not to bring the unhappy relations into public scrutiny for privacy reasons.
The Balance Theorem states that “if a labeled complete graph is balanced, then either all pairs of nodes are friends or the nodes can be divided into two groups, X and Y, such that every pair of nodes in X are friends, every pair of nodes in Y are friends, and everyone in X is the enemy of everyone in Y. ”
Currently, it is relatively difficult to observe antagonism on social networks, so as to check the stability of other models (such as the triangle with all negative links). With the introduction of the Peeple app, it will probably become easier to test the theorem. In that sense, I consider this invention a truly valuable experiment, should it scale up successfully.