i can scroll through my selection timeline whenever I want, which is a marvel of technology. Drawback: I often do this even when I want to do something else.
With that in mind, I’ve been thinking lately about how I wish social media was a little worse – to add just a little bit of friction so that I don’t spend so much time doomscrolling. I found the perfect solution: use the web version of social networks on your phone instead of installing an app. Any social network – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn – works in the browser on your phone. Using this instead of an app is a little inconvenient, which adds just enough friction for me to remind me that I could do better with my limited time on this planet.
But it gets better. I talked about how you should always question the default settings, and the idea that you need to install an app to use a social network is especially strong about the default. Instead, using a web application is in some ways better than a dedicated application. That’s why.
No secret access to data
Social media apps tend to ask for a lot of information. This makes some sense – for example, if you want to upload photos, Facebook will need access to your photo library. Some of them don’t make sense – does any social media app really need your current location?
It’s possible to figure out which apps are allowed to do what, but if you’re using the web version of the social media apps, you don’t need to. This is because websites don’t run constantly in the background on your device – they only load when you request them. It’s a myth that Facebook listens to your conversations, but if you don’t install the Facebook app, they can’t even hypothetically do it.
This has pros and cons. Notifications on your phone ensure you never miss anything happening on the social network of your choice. This is great if you want to be constantly connected, but it’s also a big part of what makes these social networks so exciting.
Simply put, if you’re trying to be more mindful of your social media usage, notifications are a pretty big problem. However, web versions of social networking sites cannot send notifications to your device. This lets you know when you want to check social media. Of course, you can still impulsively type “Instagram.com” into your browser from time to time, but that will be because you’re making a choice, not because you’ve been drawn to a notification.
Terrible features are added less frequently
Instagram is getting worse and worse. Where I used to go through a collection of friends photos, now I get some of this and then a cheap fake TikTok.
I can’t fix this for you – social media is motivated to keep you scrolling, not to make sure you’re happy while doing it. The problem with old Instagram seemed to be that you stopped scrolling after you stopped seeing new photos. The alternative is an endless stream of algorithmically curated “content”. I’m not a technologist or a futurist, but it seems likely that Meta (who owns Instagram and Facebook) will continue to make their products worse and worse, trying to squeeze every last drop of potential attention – and income – out of you.
I can’t solve this problem for you, but using the web version of this social network seems to delay the worst features, at least for a while. The web version of Instagram, for example, only recently added the aforementioned garbage stream after scrolling is complete. This means that if you’ve used the web version of Instagram, you’ve got six months of extra peace of mind. It also means that the web version will likely be spared any new hell the Instagram team comes up with next, at least for a while. It’s not much, of course, but at least something.
How to add any website to your home screen
Personally, I like typing social media URLs in the browser to open them – it’s quite a hassle. However, if you don’t want to do this, you can add icons for the web version of any social network to your home screen so you can open them as apps.
On your iPhone or iPad, open the site in Safari and tap Share button on the right side of the address bar. Tap Add to home screen and an icon with the corresponding logo will be added to the home screen.
On Android, open a website in Chrome, tap the three-dot icon in the top right corner, then tap Add to home screen. Note that in some cases this will mean Install app instead, Twitter did it for me. There’s a technical reason for this, with what’s called a Progressive Web App, but you don’t have to worry about that. Either way, the icon will appear on the Android home screen.
It’s really hard to use social media intentionally. I don’t think using a web app is the magic trick that will solve my impulse check – it will take me some work. But this is the tool I have.
I can make it even more efficient by logging out when I’m done scrolling, which means I have to enter my password the next time I want to scroll. Every little friction I add makes it a little easier to let go of my habits, which is what I want for myself. If you want it too, try it.