If Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tinder merged into a Franken-app, but one that existed purely to troll your own social media habits, that app would be Binky: the app that literally does nothing.
After reading this article on TechCrunch that called it the “the ultimate anti-social media app,” I downloaded Binky to try for myself. When you open Binky, you’re greeted with an infinite feed of photos—called “Binks”— much like Instagram. The difference is that no one is behind these posts: they’re just stock photos scrolling on by, loaded in by the app itself, everything from Elton John to Renaissance-era murals. (No need for FOMO when you’re only engaging with photos of raspberries and Noam Chomsky.)
The only setting you can change on Binky is switching the sound on and off. Everything else is pre-programmed, and while the app gives you the illusion of “options,” none of them work the way you’d expect them to. You can favorite Binks by pressing a star icon, which produces a little burst of tiny stars. That’s it. When I tried commenting on a Bink, I thought the app was broken—whatever you try to type will instead become a nonsensical string of hashtags, like when I tried to comment on a photo of Lucretius (the very social media friendly Roman poet and philosopher) and this populated instead:
Clicking the equivalent of a retweet button to share a Bink brings up a message that says “Do you want to re-bink this bink? This doesn’t do anything.” For people partial to swiping, there’s that option as well: You can swipe Binks left and right, a la Tinder, which again, does nothing. And of course, no one will see anything you “do” on the app. It’s just you, sharing, liking and swiping into the void.
The app’s absurdity is by design. Creator Dan Kurtz told TechCrunch that Binky began as a joke. “I was doing a satire on the moments when you’re flicking through your apps because you’ve got nothing better to do,” he said, noting that other platforms like Facebook have too much “anger, stress and sadness” to curb the whole I just want to mindlessly scroll cravings.
The app became a reality after Kurtz showed it to friends who said it felt like a “nicotine patch for social media,” he said. TechCrunch Writer Haje Jan Kamps provides a more fitting metaphor: Binky is like a “visually-enhanced habit-reinforcing fidget spinner for the social-media addicts among us,” which is a good way of saying that Binky provides some of what engineers have hooked us on—the need to scroll, swipe and check notifications. (But of course on Binky, there are no notifications.)
Binky is without a doubt amusing—my coworkers can attest to the fact that I sat at my desk “re-binking” Binks for a solid five minutes with childlike glee on my face. It was hilarious, and certainly refreshing to engage with a feed where you knew, with certainty, that you weren’t engaging with anyone’s opinions—just fun stock photos. But the whimsy of Binky’s escapism wears off pretty quickly, especially if you pause long enough to think about how sad it is that we’re entertained by just going through the motions of a social-media app, even if there’s no socializing involved.
At least, as the app’s name implies, Binky is taking baby steps to highlight the tragi-comedy that is our modern day obsession with social media. Like the object it shares its name with, Binky illustrates how we turn to social media for comfort, using a quick scroll to self-soothe and pacify—or rather, distract us from—our worries. If Binky helps you refrain from oversharing on Twitter or stalking an ex on Instagram, great. But I think I prefer the original, analog version behind Binky’s premise: Talking to no one, sharing with no one and engaging with no one as a form of stress relief, also known as solitude.