Last year, I had written about how I was and planning to limit my usage of social media. To refrain from using Facebook app or Twitter whenever there is “free” time, I don’t have them in my phone (Samsung Android). In my older phone, I have got another SIM, installed WhatsApp and moved all my social, professional and friends’ groups to that phone which I was checking only once or twice in a day, unlike my regular number’s WhatsApp where I will receive messages that I care. LinkedIn is the only social media app apart from WhatsApp that is installed in my phone and that’s there for looking up people and has all the notifications turned off.
I recently heard the term “Chaotic Evil” – as humans, we have mechanisms to distinguish the good from the bad, to identify “Evil” when we see one, but we don’t have any evolutionary defences against “Random” evils that don’t follow any pattern or rules; and social media has become a form of Chaotic Evil. I was reminded of this term when I saw the Netflix original The Social Dilemma (2020). Not only social media, News can be addictive too and I am not talking about “fake” news, which is exponentially evil.
Unfortunately, the pandemic came and I turned often to these very platforms for constant updates and reassurances during the lockdown. Now, it has become a habit for me to check the number of COVID cases in my city and around the world every day in the evening, and then I see myself getting into a rabbit hole of reading COVID news for the next few hours.
Google News is addictive too!
I think I am now addicted to Google (News) App. The habit of checking News in the Google app started and it has caught hold of me. Probably I am checking the app for over 10 times or more in a day, whenever there is a gap in my activities. The AI recommendations are too good, and every time I open it, I end up reading or “pocket”ing 3-4 stories. I can understand now on why many psychologists have been recommending to reduce the exposure / frequency to NEWS during the pandemic to avoid anxiety and depression.
Simpligic – My solution
A news app I designed that was non-addictive by design. Just read, don’t think. The simplest NEWS app in the market.
About four years ago, I conceptualised and designed a mobile app called “Simpligic” with a difference. Yes, it too, used Machine Learning to recommend you the perfect news that you will like to read at the moment and was right for you. But a key difference was the app was designed to be the simplest and be non-addictive. There were no user controls, no menu, no like buttons, no sharing, not even “more” stories. When you launch the app, it presents you with only one story and that’s it. I wanted the user to be in the app and out in seconds. We had applied with the United States Patent Office and had received “Patent Pending” status, but unfortunately, we didn’t back it with marketing power to make it popular.