Creating Technology for Social Change

Taking time away from coronavirus news on social media: an update from Gobo

It’s difficult to browse social media these days without seeing news on coronavirus. In fact, every other post seems to be related to concerns, updates, and memes about coronavirus — and with good reason. These are unprecedented times where a health crisis has taken place on a truly global scale, and most of our daily lives have been impacted in some way. Given the nature of this virus, many of us are spending more and more time online, especially on social media platforms. Social media has been a great way to stay connected with those from near and afar. Not only has it been a good way to check in with family and friends but it has also been a place to find and share community resources. However, social media has also made it easy to get caught up in less-than-encouraging news cycles that can take a toll on our mental and emotional health.

Knowing the importance of staying connected, we wanted to use Gobo as a way to think about how we could engage with social media in these stressful times. What if we could take a break from updates on coronavirus every now and then while continuing to stay connected with our communities on social media? As one simple approach, we created a “rule” — a control setting in Gobo that allows you to hide and add posts from your social media feeds — to temporarily hide posts mentioning coronavirus (and related terms). When I applied this rule on my feed, 88 posts were immediately hidden.

Gobo is a social media browser that lets you filter content from your social media feeds. When I applied the rule for hiding coronavirus updates, 88 posts were immediately hidden.

As researchers, designers, and developers, we’re thinking critically about how this moment reshapes our relationship to social media platforms. We want to continue challenging the lack of control we have on dominant social media platforms, and we want to imagine alternative ways to browse social media in a way that supports our needs and well-being. Give this rule a spin and let us know if it helps you find a path towards being healthy and safe online.

We hope that everyone is taking care of themselves in these challenging times.

-The Gobo Team