Social media

Gunter Froman’s automated social media blocker puts your eyes and mind back on the road

Manufacturer Gunter Froman has built a gadget, powered by a Wemos LOLIN D1 Mini ESP8266 microcontroller, that aims to keep your mind on the road during a trip by blocking social media sites.

“If you can’t drive a vehicle without the urge to (‘quietly’) check social media at every opportunity – red lights, crossroads, driving your articulated truck/semi-trailer, etc. – then this project could be for you,” says Froman. “Use the SocialsDetox API [Application Programming Interface] to block access to social networks when starting your car, with social networks being restored once your journey is over. It can also help ease the stress when you’re in the back seat of the Maybach after you finally get sick of reading or tweeting about your recent $44 billion acquisition.”

The hardware of the gadget is quite simple: a Wemos LOLIN D1 Mini, a compact development board built around the Espressif ESP8266 microcontroller, a SIM800C cellular modem board, a 12V power adapter compatible with a car’s accessory socket, and a case in which to house everything.

On the software side, the project revolves around Froman’s SocialsDetox, a domain name system (DNS) service that blocks access to social media sites – as well as games, gambling and soon to be blocks fast food and “media bias” – on a schedule or on demand. The on-board hardware therefore exists simply to switch the feature on and off – triggered by the car’s engine starting and stopping, sensed via the 12V accessory socket.

“It depends on which car’s interior power source (12V lighter or USB outlet) is switched,” admits Froman. “On some vehicles, it may take some time for power to be removed from the various interior outlets after the ignition is turned off (or the outlets are permanently live).”

The in-car blocking tool isn’t Froman’s first attempt at a tech solution to social media addiction: a month ago, the maker built a very similar device, dominated by the Big Red Button, which gave its name to the gadget. Where the on-board version is fully automated, however, the Big Red Button requires manual activation and deactivation, making it too tempting to just press the button and go back to doomscrolling.

Instructions for the project are available on Froman’s Hackaday.io page.