Ronit Ray

Bucking Social Media Attraction with Light Frontends

2021-01-02 • 3-minute read

My struggles with social media are long-standing and will likely wage on for years to come (separate post about that later perhaps). That said, I was looking for ways to minimize the time I spend on any social sites across all my devices. Unfortunately, my friends send me links to things on Reddit and Twitter that I am interested in or need to read to be part of the conversation, and there are other cases like checking the match thread on r/chelseafc when one of our matches is on that I like doing and want to continue doing. The problem this poses is that on desktop it is easy to get sucked in if you are logged onto your own account because one thing will lead to another and you will (or at least I do) find yourself on your feed doomscrolling. Another problem is that these sites are just freaking terrible. Even without the absurd amounts of tracking (Reddit, or new Reddit at least, seems to log mouse movements too), the experience is just full of cruft and really slow and irritating. The mobile web experience is downright hostile, especially if you are not logged in. I really didn't want to keep these apps installed on my phone, and finally I don't have to.

There are alternative frontends for each of these sites that are at the very least acceptable, or in my opinion significantly superior to the original sites. Here are the ones I use:

The advantages are manifold. Firstly, these are really fast and almost all features work without JavaScript enabled (Teddit iirc doesn't use JS at all). This makes them ideal for mobile usage even on shitty mobile net, and I also tend to do all my general purpose web browsing in a firefox profile that has JavaScript blocked. Further, they don't rely on the actual website or their APIs, which reduces the amount of tracking they can do to some extent. Finally, and this part is more important than I realized, they don't need you to, and in fact don't have any option for you to log into your account. This means no tailored feed, no urge to vote or indulge in comment flame wars, and no doomscrolling for the most part.

Those interested in trying these can use the Privacy Redirect extension on your browser of choice. I was using it until recently but have now switched to the more powerful Redirector that lets me set up custom rules as I'd like. I also have the extension installed with these settings on my mobile Firefox browser.

When someone sends me these links, I have them load up in these alternate sites by default without any effort, and I can close it out once I'm done. Short of ditching the sites entirely, this is perhaps the sanest alternative.

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