Sunday, 14 Jul 2024
Technology

How to Effectively Block Social Media in 2023

How to Effectively Block Social Media in 2023

The 21st century introduced the concept of near-instantaneous communication. For most of human history, information, communication, and relationships were limited to the area you lived, and occasionally traveled. Now, social media provides a way for millions of people to interact, without ever seeing each other face-to-face.

Understanding the Need for Social Media Blocking

While social media can be a source of good information, extended communication, and productivity, there are many notable reservations. Social media companies, in general, benefit from us using their platform longer and more frequently. The longer a user spends on social media, the more advertisements they will see, and the more revenue the platform generates.

In order to keep users entertained, social media desperately needs something that will grab their attention. In the early days of the internet, this took the form of polarizing news headlines, videos, or posts. But times have changed.

With the newer generations of users, quick bursts of dopamine are the modern strategy. Social media and content platforms have become experts at hijacking the brain, by providing a consistent, steady stream of easily digestible content.

The modern explosion of short-form content is the ultimate expression of this idea. As a person becomes inundated with content provided quickly, without effort and at any moment, attention spans suffer. With a reduced attention span, everyday tasks begin to feel more stressful and time consuming. This can lead to a bad habit forming.

This bad habit is very difficult to break. A modern problem that many of us have most likely experienced is telling ourselves “Just 15 minutes”, or “just one more”, and suddenly realize we’ve spent much longer than we would have liked. We begin to lose a sense of time while using these platforms, and the real-world pace begins to feel overwhelming.

But the problems can get worse when we include adult content. Adult content online, on social media in particular, can be very difficult to remove once introduced. The same algorithms that push content to keep you watching can make the adult content problematic and spread.

Adult Content is harmful. Constantly (or even occasionally) consuming it creates issues with relationships and mental health. Social media provides a unique way to become exposed to it, whether intentional or not.

Admittedly, this is an extreme analogy. The point is that if something is a stumbling block, we must remove it. You can compare social media to an eye, it allows you to see things in the online world. If social media is causing you to fall, then it’s better to live without its constant temptation.

This idea leads to a good rule of thumb for online content: “if you don’t need it, block it”. If you have seen the negative effects of social media in your own life, this guide will give you different techniques that you can use to safeguard your devices.

Techniques for Blocking Social Media

There are several ways you can block social media. Some of these techniques are at the network level, and can lockdown an entire network of devices, while others work on each type of device.

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Blocking an entire network is usually the best option since all devices connected to it won’t require any further setup. This can be very effective with home Wi-Fi. Setting up devices on a per device basis can be tedious, but it may be necessary if it connects to other networks (like a school).

Network Filtering with a DNS Filtering Service

For protecting an entire network, a DNS Filtering service is usually the best option. After it’s been properly set up, devices will not be allowed to connect to blocked websites. DNS Filtering Services also have the benefit of having a large database of blocked websites, and many of them are even sorted into categories.

Tech Lockdown uses DNS Filter, which can block different categories of content or enforce safe search on a web browser.

Certain websites can also be added manually.

Overall, the simplest option for protection is at the network level.

Blocking Social Media using the Hosts File

The Hosts File is a special file on many desktop or laptop computers that can change the way it interacts with a website. In our case, it can be used to block social media websites or apps by interfering with these platform’s ability to communicate with the servers. The way it interferes with this communication is by changing the DNS records of a computer.

DNS, or the Domain Name System, is like the internet’s phone book. When you want to visit a website, you usually type a human-friendly web address like “www.example.com” into your web browser. However, computers communicate over the internet using IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, which are a series of numbers like “12.34.56.78.”

Here’s how DNS works:

  1. You Make a Request: When you enter a web address in your browser, your computer needs to find the corresponding IP address to connect to the right server. It sends a request to a DNS server, which is like a directory assistance service for the internet.
  2. DNS Server Look-Up: The DNS server looks up the web address in its records, just like looking up a phone number in a phone book. It finds the associated IP address for the website you want to visit.
  3. Return the IP: The DNS server then sends the IP address back to your computer.
  4. Connect to the Website: Your computer can now use the IP address to connect to the web server hosting the website, and you can access the site’s content.

Now, here’s where the hosts file comes in:

The hosts file is a simple text file on your computer that allows you to manually associate IP addresses with specific domain names. It’s like creating your own mini DNS system on your computer.

When you edit the hosts file and assign an invalid IP address (like 0.0.0.0 or 127.0.0.1) to a particular website’s domain name, you’re essentially telling your computer, “Whenever someone tries to go to this website, send them to this invalid IP address instead.” Since the IP address is invalid, your computer can’t connect to the website’s server, effectively blocking access to that site.

So, by modifying the hosts file and assigning invalid IP addresses to specific websites, you can prevent your computer from resolving those websites’ domain names to their actual IP addresses, effectively blocking access to those sites. It’s a simple and local way to block websites without needing to rely on external tools or services.

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For social media websites, the first step is to find (or create) the host file for your system.

For Windows

For Mac

Adding Social Media Domains to the Hosts File

Now that you can edit the Hosts File, we need to add domains to it. Blocking all social media is pretty easy, there are lists available online that you can copy and paste into your hosts file.

If you want to block all social media platforms, use this list in your Hosts File. This list is pretty big, but it has all of the major platforms and any Domain Names that they use.

If you want to block particular social media platforms, we recommend checking out our guides for each of these platforms:

  • Block Facebook
  • Block YouTube Entirely
  • Filter YouTube Content
  • Block TikTok
  • Block Instagram

Blocking Social Media on a Computer using a Blocking Application

A very user-friendly way to block social media is to use a Blocking Application. A Blocking usually uses a browser extension to control what websites can be visited. This can be very useful, but there are some important drawbacks to consider.

  1. First, Blocking Applications can be used to block specific websites or applications, but they only work on a supported browser. Some blocking applications can block unsupported browsers, but many don’t.
  2. Second, Blocking Applications usually only work on the user level. This means that Applications, Apps, or Websites can be blocked, but the device with the Blocking Application can still connect to these sites. From the users’ perspective, there is no way to interact with the website, but the computer technically has the ability to connect to them. This can be a problem with bypass prevention because if the blocking application is disabled, there is no other protection against accessing the websites blocked.
  3. Third, Blocking Applications use a blacklist blocking approach. A blacklist will allow all websites except those you choose to block. Blocking Applications work well when you need to break a known habit, but they are not as effective at blocking adult content when browsing the internet.

The Blocking Application we recommend at Tech Lockdown is Cold Turkey, which works on Windows and Mac machines. Cold Turkey is a free program that uses a browser extension to intercept blocked websites. Blocked websites are placed in “blocks”, which can be “locked” by either a password, time range, or another method. If you pay for the premium version, you can block programs on your computer, in addition to other features.

Blocking Social Media on an Android Smartphone

There are two main ways to block social media on an Android: using parental controls or setting up a “dumb phone”. Parental controls are the much easier and clear option, however, there are some important considerations:

  1. Parental Controls provide basic blocking features, like preventing access to certain websites or preventing installing unapproved apps. They can’t do things like block network traffic or filter out specific categories of content.
  2. Parental Controls are great for securing a child’s device, but it may not be adequate for someone trying to enforce self-regulation. Bypassing your own parental control settings removes the value of setting up parental controls in the first place.

Android has their own parental controls that can be configured with their companion app, Family Link. Family Link allows you to set up controls on a device, like limiting how much time you can spend on an app.

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Here you can set up content restrictions, and in the case of the specific app you want to limit, you can set it to the lowest possible time value.

To block websites, you’ll have to use Family Link.

Another option is to set up a “Healthy” or “Dumb Android”. This allows you to set up much more advanced controls and protections on an Android device.

Blocking Social Media on an iPhone

iPhone’s uses a feature called Screen Time to block websites and set app timers. As with the Android parental controls, Screen Time has some considerations:

  1. Screen Time provides basic blocking features and allows you to block websites in Safari and set app timers. However, it will not provide network-level filtering or filter out specific categories of content.
  2. Screen Time works best for securing a child’s device but may not be adequate for someone trying to self-regulate their own device.

That being said, the best option for securing an iPhone device is to create a “Dumb” or “Healthy iPhone”, as this provides the best means of securing the device.

Here’s how to set up Screen Time:

  1. Limit Adult Websites, and under Never Allow, add the URL of the social media site you want to disable.
  2. Allowed Websites Only, and make sure that the social media sites are not added to the Allowed Only These Websites list.

Nuances and Considerations

Some types of social media or content platforms don’t need to be blocked completely. It is possible to limit content visible or available on a platform.

Hide YouTube Thumbnails

Did you know it is possible to hide YouTube thumbnails? You can set up your device so that YouTube’s homepage looks like this:

Feel free to check out our dedicated guide for limiting YouTube content.

Filter Content on Reddit

Reddit can be a very good resource, so for some people, you might want to access limited subreddits or content.

The best way to do this is by using a blocking application on a computer, like Cold Turkey. Here’s how you can set this up:

This is just one of the ways that you can limit the content on Reddit. We have a guide for filtering nsfw content on Reddit that goes into much more detail and provides more techniques.

Blocking Google Images

Google Images, while not a social media platform, can sometimes display adult content on various websites, including these platforms. It is possible to filter these images so that they don’t load on the website. We have a dedicated guide for blocking Google Images or forcing SafeSearch that covers these techniques.

Filtering Content on Twitter

Similar to Reddit or Google Images, there are ways to prevent images and videos from loading on the Twitter (aka X), and block explicit content on the site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Coming Soon

Conclusion

Social media is a two-edged sword, one that has the potential to be a very good thing but may become a negative influence on your life. This article has gone over techniques you can use to block them completely; however, we also covered some nuanced conditions where limiting the types of content available can work.

Everyone is different, and everyone has a different approach to living healthily. Blocking content is an important thing in our current day and age, especially with the sheer amount of content available that eats at our time, affects our mental health, and shapes our worldview.