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 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.
- 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.