MIT staffer answers social networking craze with 'Enemybook'

Matt Dunning

Running out of ways to message, poke or give gifts to your Facebook friends?

Forget your friends, and start concentrating on your enemies.

Thanks to Kevin Matulef, 28, Facebook users can now use the social networking Web site to keep track of their enemies just as easily as their friends.

Facebook, the brainchild of former Harvard students Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, is one of the fastest growing social networking sites in the world. According to the Web site, more than 250,000 new users register on the site every day. 

Launched last July, Matulef said Enemybook, a free plug-in application that mimics the visual and functional elements of Facebook’s indexing system, has amassed just over 10,000 users.

“It started as a satire, really,” said Matulef, a Ph.D. candidate and tutor at MIT. “It’s meant to parody Facebook, the superficial aspects of social networks, and some of the superficial relationships we all have on sites like it.”

Like many of the thousands of applications available for the social networking site, what began as a joke has evolved into a form of self-expression, as well as a way to rib one’s friends. Users have the option of choosing enemies from their existing friends’ list, or from a list of “public enemies,” which includes everyone from George W. Bush to Santa Claus. Where prospective friends would be asked how they met, once an enemy is selected, users are asked to explain why that person is their enemy. Possible responses to the question include “insulted my honor” and “is the friend of my enemy.” In place of the poke, users have the option of giving their enemies a virtual middle finger.

Enemybook isn’t the first forum for deriding one’s adversaries online, nor is Matulef the first to take a virtual swipe at Facebook, or the frivolous nature of many social networking relationships. However, Matulef’s Enemybook platform was among the first parodies to incorporate itself into the Facebook site. and had been running external sites lampooning Facebook for more than a year.

Amy Sezak, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company does not comment on applications developed by outside parties.

“It’s not surprising that there are other parodies out there,” Matulef said. “The time is right, I think, for parodies of the site. Facebook’s user base has grown exponentially, and when something becomes a fad like that it’s ripe for parody.”

In the last 18 months, more than 7,000 applications have been added to the Facebook platform, and 100 more are added every day. They cover a seemingly limitless array of functions, the most popular of which include the “Top Friends,” “Fun Wall” and “Superpoke” applications, according to the Facebook Web site.

Matulef, who spent his undergrad years at Brown University and is currently working as a graduate tutor and resident adviser at MIT, said most of the feedback he’s received since launching Enemybook in July has been positive. Several users, he said, have e-mailed him

“A lot of people have really embraced it,” Matulef said. “A lot of people have e-mailed me and said they wish they’d had the idea or that they did have the same idea, but are jealous that I actually got around to making it.”

A quick scroll through Matulef’s list of online nemeses reveals his political leanings — Bush, Osama bin Laden, Ann Coulter and Fox News are listed among the reviled — but most of his other “enemies” are just friends joking around. Zuckerberg is also listed among Matulef’s foes, though he insists the designation is in good fun. In fact, since he launched Enemybook, Matulef said he’s heard very little from the Facebook camp about the application.

“It’s sort of tongue-in-cheek,” Matulef said. “I haven’t had any direct contact with him. I don’t really hate the guy, it’s just pretty easy to be jealous of him.”

Cambridge Chronicle