Sure, it’s fun to see photos of dumb dogs and screenshots of bad journalism, but social media, by and large, is making us pretty miserable. You’ve seen the posts from your friends, the ones saying they “need to unplug for a while,” and you’ve seen them back a day later, offering their take on the latest Trump scandal. See, the problem is there’s no alternative. Whether you believe it or not, we come to miss all that scrolling, liking, and swiping; it’s become instinctual.
Binky is an app that does everything an app is expected to do. It’s got posts. It’s got likes. It’s got comments. It’s got the infinitely scrolling timeline found in all social apps, from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat.
I open it and start scrolling. Images of people, foods, and objects appear on and then vanish off the screen. Solar cooker. B.F. Skinner. Shoes. Marmalade. Sports Bra. Michael Jackson. Ganesha. Aurora Borealis. These are “binks,” the name for posts on Binky.
I can “like” a bink by tapping a star, which unleashes an affirming explosion. I can “re-bink” binks, too. I can swipe left to judge them unsavory, Tinder-style, and I can swipe right to signal approval. I am a binker, and I am binking.
And that’s it. You don’t follow anyone, nor does anyone follow you. Because there’s no one there. And you? You can’t share anything. You can just like things or not like things. There’s no consequence. Just content. Meaningless content.
Binky was developed by game developer Dan Kurtz, who found himself increasingly exhausted with his social media platforms. “I don’t even want that level of cognitive engagement with anything,” he told The Atlantic, “but I feel like I ought to be looking at my phone, like it’s my default state of being.”
The result is the digital equivalent of a fidget cube, an app that satiates the part of you that desires the scroll. “By sparing the mental and emotional effort of taking in content and spitting back approval and commentary,” Bogost writes, “Binky makes it possible to experience the smartphone as such, as a pure medium for its behavior rather than a delivery channel for social media content.”
What it also does is provide an alternative for those who’ve become exhausted both by the rigors of social media, but also the desire for validation that tends to spring up from its networking aspect. As the nicotine patch is to cigarettes, Binky is to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat.
“It’s strange to think of content as optional,” Bogost writes, and it really is. But making it so could very well be a pathway to a healthier, more relaxed mind. Especially once you begin considering Facebook’s next steps.