A blog of yet another quirky guy out there

YThijack

This #YThijack experiment has shed some light on how I interact with the online world. There is a mixed feeling of duty and excitement that pushes me to watch every video, read every article (or post), consume every bite of information coming through my feeds. This is unsustainable and absurd in equal proportion.

In those virtual places where information is exchanged, where our attention — the scarcest asset of this century — is sold, it is so easy to overbudget. I must confess I take the bait more often I would like to admit, that I end up wasting my time consuming cheap entertainment.

Today consumers' behaviour has been carefully crafted to choose whatever is more convenient, whatever takes the least effort. Companies (and individuals) know it, and make huge profits from it. That's why showing up on the first page of a Google search, or getting the YouTube! algorithm to recommend your content, or placing your product in the premium spots in a grocery store costs you more (either money or time), it does not matter what you put there, consumers want it.

This ongoing experiment has provided me space and time to put things in perspective, to break free from the loop. This interminable loop of watching and never feel that it is enough. Enough, have we forgotten to recognize when we have had enough?

Life is too short to keep up with the virtual world, and I have had enough trying to do so.

The #YThijack experiment is going well. As expected, adding an extra thin layer of complexity to the consumption workflow disrupted the whole thing and helped to unhook me from it.

A few things worth noticing:

  • It is a social thing. I realized how many times I ended up watching videos simply because someone shared a link with me. The immense majority of those are links to meme videos. Would I put the effort to send the link to my computer, download the thingy and watch it? ... nay.

  • I can't crave the unknown. I don't feel the urge to watch videos I don't know are there, as simple as that. Mostly, I want to go there to watch again videos that I found interesting in the past — which amounts to hardly 2% of them.

  • Bad habits spread out quickly. So, I found myself spending more time on Fosstodon, LinkedIn and even R.W.a. Just as someone quitting drugs who suddenly starts drinking alcohol as if there is no tomorrow; then, when reality hits again, went on a smoking frenzy to deal with his transition to sobriety. Something I must definitely watch out for.

And still, the biggest change this has brought about is a deceleration of time, which now flows differently as I experience moments of boredom here and there during the day.

As I am not a person with high willpower, the first thing to get done was to uninstall YT! app from my phone.

Expecting a non-trivial task as my phone runs Android and this app came preinstalled, I first went to the Play store and pressed “uninstall”; it went unexpectedly smoothly. However, YT! icon remained in the same place; the app is useless but still there:

Useless youtube app

Being suboptimal yet a “good enough” solution, it was considered done after removing the icon from the main screen.

What I first experienced was an unexpected and subtle feeling of relief. It was supposed to be a struggle, but I was there, feeling at ease. Being subscribed to several YT channels that publish content regularly, I believe I had endured mild but constant anxiety — a form of FOMO, maybe? — that triggers my compulsive behaviour of checking this app quite often — since I don't have any notifications enabled, I “have to” check it manually.

Equally noteworthy is how I unconsciously kept opening this app (even though the icon is not in its usual place). I had seen the image shared above not one but many times since yesterday.

It seems time flows at a slower pace this weekend.

P.S. This is a follow-up post of this one.

#YThijack

I've been spending way too much time on YouTube! lately. Automatically grab my phone to watch one more video has become a knee jerk reaction whenever I experience the slightest trace of boredom. It is an addiction. And like any addict, I often deny it or justify it. This unhealthy habit is rationalized in many ways: “I'm learning new skills”, “It is an effective way of keep informed of what happens around the world”, etc. If I'm truly honest to myself, that's bullshit.

Information, particularly the excess of thereof, does not always precede knowledge; a quiet period of reflection is necessary. An uninterrupted stream of images and words became pure noise in our heads when it does not intercalate with periods of quietness, when no new information is consumed and just let things sink in.

As a software engineer — and contrary to most people perception about this profession — my job is to come up with reasonable good decisions based on convoluted, sometimes vast but often irrelevant and insufficient information, and deal with all frustration that this process entails. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that the part of my brain that deals with processing information is already exhausted by the end of the day. Looking at how I mindlessly consume yet more information through my phone in my spare time is tremendously counterintuitive, even absurd. My mind craves silence and I give her more noise; and no, I'm not really learning something anymore by looking at the screen.

I've tried to quit Youtube in the past and failed.

Admittedly, there is a lot of value in there. However, the platform is not designed so that you get the value from it, but the other way around. So, I want to hijack it.

There is one simple rule from now on: I am only going to watch YT! videos offline.

Since I'm not paying a premium (and I won't do it), that effectively means that I can't watch videos on my phone (unless I download them[1] on my computer and then transfer them). The basic underlying strategy is to make my video consumption more inconvenient.

This idea came from two previous experiences. The first one being those early days as an Internaut with a modem-based (hence super-slow) Internet connection, when you had to wait minutes (or even hours) for a video to load (or download) before watching it. The second, a more recent one, was when I joined Mastodon and noticed how I was getting hooked to it. The long term solution was to uninstall the client mobile app and only access the platform through the browser, which is a fairly clumsy interface on the phone. The same tactic worked for LinkedIn.

My expectation is that, by making it hard to access, I will be more selective and mindful of what and how I consume information. Organically, the waiting time will create a gap that triggers reflection; the up-front effort required will enforce more filtering out; sometimes I might even be lured into something else instead of sitting in front of a screen. That's the hope.

I will post about how things unfold with this little experiment as a way to keep me accountable.

Thanks for reading.


Footnotes:

  1. I'm using some third-party tools for this, which is not illegal as long as I do it for personal use. Some people argue that it is immoral, but I disagree.

#YThijack