Mindful Social Media
My bachelor thesis investigates how interface design can support a healthier and more conscious digital consumer behaviour. The result is a social media app, that is mindful and respects its users.
Prof. Matthias Edler-Golla
Timeframe: October 2018 - February 2019
Tools: Adobe XD, Illustrator
Social media shapes our everyday life, having both positive and negative effects. Most people are aware of those negative effects, but they find it difficult to get away from their excessive digital consumption. Common social media aims to let their users spend as much time as possible on their apps.
Asking myself why it is so hard for us to change our digital consumer behaviour, I identified four basic causes.
1. An endless flood
Social media is an endless flood of unrelated stimuli and information. This excess of impressions leads to a kind of work-through mindset. If you open the app, you quickly get sucked into it and find yourself scrolling thoughtlessly and aimlessly through feeds and stories.
The use of social media is characterized by a rapid change of focus. It triggers a hyperpassivity, preventing the user from deeper processing of the consumed content and from reflecting over the his behaviour.
Push notifications or social pressure, such as the fear of missing out or the need for checking and comparing the number of likes and followers, urge the user to open the app over and over.
For some people, the usage takes on addictive traits. It makes it difficult to have control over how much or what one wants to consume.
How should it be?
Quality over quantity. We should consume the right amount of good content. The goal is balance, which requires mindful action.
But how would social media have to look like in order to support this kind of behaviour?
In order to gain better insight into the problem, I looked at some studies and conducted interviews.
I realized that although people are dissatisfied and frustrated with social media, they don't want to stop using it. The benefits seem to outweigh the negative effects.
As a potential solution to the problem, I designed "Mello", an alternative social media app.
It is aimed at those who experience negative effects with social media, but at the same time do not want to be without it.
Mello helps the user to use the app in a mindfull and reflected way. It reduces and shapes the content, slows down the activity and supports the user in maintaining a healthy attachment.
The organization and reduction of the content, as well as more friction in the interface design, gives the user the possibility for more concious behaviour.
Less is more
The starting page does not as usually show an endless feed. Instead, it displays the newest five posts of different categories. Endless scrolling is not possible and the reduction and categorization create more depth.
The main feed is structured in groups.
That way, the user is able to filter the feed according to his interests and won't be overwhelmed.
"Topic of the month" is an article covering a monthly topic, which then is complemented by fitting posts. It gives the feed an object of duration and depth.
"Make me think"
The interface is intentionally designed with various points of friction. In order to get to the whole feed, the user has to take some steps. It slows down the activity and makes the user think about what he wants to consume. "Make me think" instead of "Don't make me think".
A feed that isn's endless
The assistant helps the user to achieve his goals of a valuable and healthy usage. It is a supporting system, consisting of several settings.
The assistant's eye follows the user whenever he is scrolling through the feed.
Three different modes make it possible to adapt the support to the user's individual needs. The more open the eye is, the more strictly the assistant intervenes.
Sophia set a daily break from 10 pm to 10 am and chose the strict mode. She opens Mello at 10:24 pm, but only gets to see a locked screen.
Setting if and when the user wants to get notified.
Various settings help the user to get more awareness of time and content.
The user has the options to set when he wants to take a break from Mello, how much time he wants to spend there in total, and whether and when he wants to get push notifications.
The user can turn the assistant eye off and on, hide likes and followers, decide how much content he wants to see per day, and block specific content.
The assistant keeps track of the user's goals.
This allows him to see when he experiences difficulties.
The assistant's floating eye follows the user whenever he is scrolling through the feed. When the user spends to much time on Mello or looks at too much content, the eye becomes tired, making the user aware of his behaviour. In addition, it offers the possibility to filter the feed.
The financing of Mello can't lie in the placement of advertising, because the profit would depend on the users time spent on the app. Therefore the membership of Mello would have to be a one-time purchase or a subscription. Also, It would be interesting to consider only charging the use of the assistant.
Marie Urbin © 2020