On Friday, I learned about Binky. It advertises itself as a fake social media app that serves up meaningless, fake posts that addicts can "like" or "repost." The app serves as a digital pacifier as they try to wean themselves from real social media. As someone who checks Twitter an unhealthy amount of times during the day, I decided to give it a try. I deleted Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Snapchat from my phone for three whole days and took note of how often I felt the urge to open Binky.
When I first opened Binky, I was met with a tutorial that gave me a basic sense of how the app works.
"Nothing you do here does anything real," the Binky tutorial said. "None of it matters. Experience the freedom!"
At this point, I began to think Binky was talking about more than just itself. Who created this app? A nihilist English major who saw a market for post-modern apps? (In a recent interview, Binky creator Dan Kurtz said he created the app out of a craving for mindless scrolling.
"This is what people really want from their smartphones," Kurtz argues in the article. "Not content in the sense of quips, photos, and videos, but content as the repetitive action of touching and tapping a glass rectangle with purpose and seeing it nod in response."
The app looks like language-building flashcards, or Wikipedia if each article were a Tinder user. Each "post" is a simple person, place, or thing with a stock image-like accompanying picture. When you "bink," or like, a post, there's a flurry of blue stars that gives you the same strange satisfaction as the confetti that appears when you send "congrats!" in iMessage. It's like seeing a colony of bubbles emerge from just a small amount of dish soap. When you "re-bink" a post, a pacifier pops up alongside text that reads, "Do you want to re-bink this bink? This doesn't do anything." If you choose to re-bink, you're met with a shower of gold thumbs-up emojis. I felt like I was literally watching thumbs-up-shaped endorphins being released into my brain.
If you try to leave a comment, each letter you type brings up a completely unrelated world or emoji. So typing "iwdjwovhwoasjvuqkvnsucmvowvf" gives you the pre-programmed comment, "so cool! sometimes i feel like i'm staring into a high-resolution abyss and it is turning my soul into pixels. But this is great. #freebeer #crushingit #cantRememberTwoMinutesAgo." So any attempt at self expression just populates Binky with someone else's predetermined thoughts. I thought to myself that these comments were funnier than anything I'd come up with on my own, so I could use Binky to come up with captions on my real social media. I felt ashamed.
At one point, a post of an atomic clock came right after a post of a leek. It felt strange seeing those posts consecutively, but it doesn't matter that I felt strange because there's no point to the app anyway. I quickly became bored with the app and opened up 2048 instead (yes, I still play 2048). 2048 was immediately more satisfying than Binky because it provided the same mindless swiping you crave when you're anxious, but it still provided an objective.
Over the weekend, the only times I opened Binky were to show the app to my family and friends. It's an effortless conversation piece that provides a few minutes of entertainment. The app's predetermined hashtags such as "#emptylife" are natural punchlines.
But honestly, by day two I started to get annoyed that I felt no urge to open the app and considered ending my experiment. But I was committed to testing myself for the entire weekend. By day three, I only opened the app as punishment for unconsciously searching "Facebook" in mobile Safari.
I think that Binky makes incorrect and cynical assumptions about the reason we use social media. There's a reason we use Instagram and don't just make private albums on our phones. Tapping and reading takes effort, and there's a reason we make that effort. We're addicted to the gamble of making a post, knowing its success or failure can bring validation or shame.
With that being said, at 12:30am on Monday morning, I re-downloaded Instagram and posted with a caption from a pre-programmed Binky comment. I feel a little guilty that I didn't come away from Binky with newfound indifference toward the amount of likes I get. My picture has 85 likes—it deserves way more.