It’s no secret that social media is wreaking havoc on our lives. From increasing our risk of depression, anxiety and feelings of social isolation to lowering our overall productivity levels, it’s safe to assume that our collective wellbeing would benefit greatly from spending less time glued to our screens. However, an Oakland based developer begs to differ, arguing that it’s the content that’s the problem, not the act of scrolling through an endless stream of data on the hand-held, time-sapping devices that are our smartphones.
Dan Kurtz initially came up with the idea of Binky – a “stress free” social-networking app designed to keep you busy on your phone without engaging your brain – as a joke. After lamenting the fact that he could while away half an hour on Facebook without any later recollection of what he had seen during that time, he wondered if replacing social media content as we know it with a never-ending algorithm of innocuous, random images would feel just as compelling.
“I don’t even want that level of cognitive engagement with anything,” Dan explains of his gripe with Facebook and Twitter, “but I feel like I ought to be looking at my phone, like it’s my default state of being.” After sharing the prototype with a few friends, he realised that a pre-filled feed of inoffensive yet meaningless material served as an antidote to the problem of wanting to scroll through something but not wanting to be bogged down by the trappings (here’s looking at you, click bait) of social media as we currently know it.
With Binky, you can swipe left for, say, Nobel Peace prize-winner Bernardo Houssay, “star” a flock of sheep, “re-bink” a punnet of guava or leave an easy-type comment on a picture of a banjo. Or don’t. Nothing you do on Binky is permanent, there are no likes or followers or any social interaction, for that matter. Your time spent on Binky is both liberating (bye, social anxiety!) and completely futile. Which – if you’re anything like me – may prompt you to ask the following question: what is the actual point?
Binky has been described as a pacifier (an image of which is, incidentally, its icon), its purpose being to wean us off of social media’s main players – and it works. A couple of days after downloading the app and I’ve found that I’m definitely clocking up less time on Facebook and Instagram. And yet the outcome is still the same; I’m still helplessly glued to the little blue screen on my phone, except I’m getting less enjoyment from it. Which might just be the whole point. Without the engaging quotes or inspirational pictures, the whole charade begins to feel farcical (much like the rest of our social media habits, perhaps?), so my phone soon goes back in my pocket.
Whether Binky is social experiment, satire or just an adult version of a fidget spinner, I can’t help but feel my time would be better spent elsewhere and so I decide to delete the app from my phone. Along with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram… I’m done with scrolling for the sake of scrolling.