Imagining Less Addictive Text-Based Social-Media


Social media apps and website are addictive and cause a bunch of societal issues. I thought it would be fun to imagine what a less addictive social-media website based on text would look like. Embark with me on this thought experiment.

A social media website based entirely on text would have the advantage of being less addictive by default. Reading is something that requires concentration. It's also less appealing visually then images and videos.

Here is how I would imagine the UI for a fictious website called Txtual.

txtual interface

It looks a bit bland while retaining good UX which is the point. People familiar with Hacker News will immediately notice the similarities in how the posts are shown.

What happens when you click on a post? You'll be sent to the following screen :


Here again Hacker News is taken as inspiration. An added benefit of only having text and links is that NSFW spam is going to be impossible. Users are only defined by their usernames. They don't have profile pics or any other ways of hosting images on Txtual itself.

This would make Txtual immune to a lot of moderation problems that comes with allowing rich media on the platform.

This however wouldn't make the website immune to all attacks. For example, someone could post spam links. This is however far easier to moderate. The last issue is going to be content moderation. Doxxing and direct threats should be the first thing on the list that can be tackled objectively.

However how would I moderate content I think is immoral? This is where things gets tricky. Here are potential routes that could be taken :

  • Left unmoderated however, the platform will not have a recommendation system and no search engine.
  • Federated versions where each federation has their own arbitrary rules. If a user doesn't want to see certain types of content they would create an instance and make their own rules. This risks of fracturing the website and making it irrelevant in the long run.
  • My moral compass or the highway.

As you may have realized there are no solutions that will satisfy everyone. What do you think the moderation approach should be and why?

Finally here is the last UI mock up I did presenting the feed. It's accessed by going to the Home tab. image

You may have noticed the presence of an ad. A social media website would have to make money somehow. One way to do so is through ad placement. We could experiment with other tactics like making it a one time payment per account creation.

I wanted to showcase by showing an ad that in a text-based social media website ads are by default going to be less obstrusive.

That's about it. What do you think of Txtual? How would you improve it or solve challenges related to moderation and monetization? Could it be a good foundation for an open source project?

Thanks for reading.

You can share your thoughts with me via email at nassimslab1* Replace * with @.