Gunter Froman's Automated Social Media Blocker Gets Your Eyes, and Mind, Back on the Road

Built from just two main components, this little gadget keeps your social media blocked as long as the engine is running.

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

"If you're unable to drive a vehicle without the urge to ('inconspicuously') check social media at every opportunity — traffic lights on red, junctions, driving your articulated lorry/semi truck, etc — then this project could be for you," Froman explains. "Use the SocialsDetox API [Application Programming Interface] to block access to social media when you start your car, with social media restored once your journey has ended. It may also help alleviate stress when in the back of the Maybach after you're finally sick of reading, or tweeting, about your recent $44 billion acquisition."

The hardware for the gadget is pretty 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 box in which to house it all.

On the software side, the project revolves around Froman's SocialsDetox, a Domain Name System (DNS) service that blocks access to social media sites — along with gaming, gambling, and soon to include fast-food and "media bias" blocks — on a schedule or on-demand. The in-car hardware, then, exists simply to switch the functionality on and off — triggered by the starting and stopping of the car's engine, detected through the 12V accessory socket.

"It's reliant on the car's interior power source (12V lighter or USB socket) being ignition switched," Froman admits. "On some vehicles it can be a while before power is removed from the various interior sockets once the ignition is switched off (or alternatively the sockets are permanently live)."

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

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

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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