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These artists created an app to help you ditch toxic friends

Lauren McCarthy and Kyle McDonald have created an IRL answer to Black Mirror

Did you watch Black Mirror's Christmas episode and think, "Damn, I wish I could block people in real life?" Well, two artists are bringing that world of dystopic social media horror that little bit closer to reality with their new app, pplkpr. (It's pronounced "people keeper", BTW.)

The iPhone app monitors your daily interactions with people, measuring your heartrate and stress levels. Based on this biofeedback, the app then unfriends or blocks the social media profiles of people who stress you out, and schedules future dates with those you respond positively to. All you need to do is strap on one of the widely available wristbands which measure your heartrate. The app does the rest for you when you connect it to your Facebook and Twitter.

Sounds horrifying right? But digital artists Lauren McCarthy and Kyle McDonald are adamant that this is the exact opposite of the tech-driven nightmare portrayed in the Channel 4 show.

"One motivation behind pplkpr was to create an app for trimming down and focusing your social life rather than expanding and diluting it," McCarthy tells us. "We were looking at this increasing trend toward wearables and quantified life and we wondered: when does it go too far? Not taking the time to figure out your own relationships seems ludicrous."

"We want to think we’re more than bots. Yet we’re constantly complaining about emails in our inbox, too many social notifications, and FOMO. The idea of an algorithm tracking and managing your social life feels creepy, but what if it actually works? What if it actually improves your relationships and emotional life?"

If you think the app is just a one-off art stunt, think again. McCarthy and McDonald have built a fully functional app and made it available for download on iTunes. They even trialled it at a focus group of college students at Carnegie Mellon University – all of whom appear to have reacted positively to the app. 

In a promo video, one test subject explained its appeal: "Using the app as a justification for not wanting to hang out with someone is a lot more definitive than just saying, like, 'I’m uncomfortable.'"

To their credit, McCarthy and McDonald readily acknowledge that the app "treads the line between dystopic and earnest optimism" – but they want to let pplkpr users make up their own minds.

"We are trying to find this place in the middle where we can acknowledge the reality that no technology is black or white / good or bad," McCarthy says. "There are conflicting and dissonant motives and implications with each new innovation, and we aim to draw these out to let people engage with them in a way that goes beyond a snap reaction."

You can watch the two artists talk about pplkpr below: