We all stare at our phones and, in many situations, we don’t actually need to be staring at our phones.
I find myself doing this, in idleness and boredness, opening up an app like Instagram only to crash it because I had already done this three times in the past five minutes before. This act is a brief wander into amnesia, where I forget what I just did online and return to it again, craving digital attention that was previously unfulfilled. It makes no sense but plays into a tech addiction that I (We.) probably should do something about.
How can we mitigate the problem? With apps like Binky. As the app’s name suggests, it’s a pacifier for the technically antsy.
Binky is a simple, single service device that resembles the digital child of Instagram and Tinder. It shows you vanilla images at random—like waiting rooms, bananas, hair ties, fire stations, thyme, etc.—that you can swipe left or right on, Like, comment, or “re-bink,” sharing to your bink feed. The catch is that none of these acts actually lead to anything: every swipe, push, comment, etc. is all fake. No re-binking goes anywhere. The comments you make aren’t even your own. Nothing is real. It’s the digital equivalent of a fidget spinner, allowing you to play act busyness without actually doing anything. It is empty content to match the emptiness you seek to fill with your phone.
That’s the goal of the app: to fill those moments where you’re looking to look at your phone for no reason. Instead of you actually turning to do something faux constructive via social media, Binky offers you a flat interaction to play with: it adds a dull point to the pointless.
The Atlantic explains the motives of Binky best in a story they did with its creator, Dan Kurtz.
What if the problem with smartphones isn’t the compulsion to keep up with the new ideas they deliver, but believing that the meaning of those ideas matters in the first place? Binky offers all the pleasure of tapping, scrolling, liking, and commenting without any of the burden of meaning.
“Look, all we want from our apps is to see new stuff scroll up from the bottom of the screen,” the Binky website reads. “It doesn’t matter what the stuff is.” That’s no gag; it’s an incisive elucidation of why people want to handle their smartphones so often. By sparing the mental and emotional effort of taking in content and spitting back approval and commentary, 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.
I’ve had the app for a few days and am attempting to train myself to look at this dumb app when I crave a “distraction” by picking up my phone. In turning to Binky, I’m hoping that I cram into my brain that I am doing something useless and will train myself out of staring at it. This seems like a more practical solution to turning your screen gray, which is “fun” until you realize the work that goes into re-doing the color so you can post an Insta photo, etc. That gets old real, real fast.
Time will tell if this app truly does the job for me or anyone else. For now, it’s a fun, free, useless tool for keeping busy by doing nothing. It’s as absurd as it is brilliant. You can download the app here to see if it helps your mind any.