Is it me, or have the number of ads on Instagram shot up in the past few months? I swear it’s getting to the point where half my feed is sponsored, and they’re not just your usual gaming or corporate posts. It’s also the paid-for promoted content from other users that are starting to aggressively infiltrate my feed. I’m certainly not enjoying my time with the platform as much as I used to. I’m contemplating deleting my account and leaving the site altogether (as I did with Facebook several years ago), especially now that more of the dubious targeting practices seem to be gradually working their way into its architecture. It’s also contributed to what’s become a personal routine of procrastination. Something I desire to drastically change.
If it’s not Instagram, its Reddit. If it’s not Reddit, it’s Youtube. Together they’ve formed a Bermuda Triangle to my downtime. Which has now become an ad-filled, morally skewed, triangle.
The major reason I wish to curb my procrastination is that I have so many better and more fruitful things to do with my time. I have a mountain of books and comics (both physical and digital) that I should be reading. I have a guitar I should be learning to play. I have empty sketchbooks and drawing apps to fill with designs and doodles. I subscribe to Netflix and Readly, and barely use either. I have an unfinished story to write that I haven’t touched in months. And don’t get me started on my Steam game library… It’s kinda stupid, to be honest. But procrastination has become so easy. So socially engineered that’s its a normality for many people.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the stark and notable increase in forced commercials, bot meddling, reaction videos, and questionable content, I may have been happy to continue. Part of the initial hook comes down to that “Just one more click” addictive mentality (Anyone who ever used Stumbleupon will side with me here), and these sites are designed around keeping you on the platform or within their app as much as possible.
But the ever-increasing necessity of many users and content creators to forego quality over controversy, to generate hype and garner reactions for views and attention, mixed with the questionable algorithms that throw this stuff onto our recommended feeds, or in the case of Reddit the propaganda farms that own a sizeable chunk of the userbase, is starting to leave a particularly bad taste.
So what to do?
Eliminate the negativity, and reduce the Mis-use of time.
Firstly, I have removed the Reddit viewing app from my phone, as this was one of my biggest go-tos for killing time. I’ve already found myself reaching for the device, only to remember its gone. But it’s making a difference already.
I’ve also disabled the Google Now news feed from my phone too. No matter how many times I tell it I’m not interested in meaningless drama, tabloid politics or football results, it still comes up with absolute tripe. I don’t miss it one bit.
Feedly has once again become my aggregated reader of choice. Clean and simple interface, strictly shows you articles from only the sources you pick, whilst giving you the option to separately search for other topics. No algorithm to screw up your front page here and you barely see any promoted or forced content. (Sorry Flipboard, but you just can’t compete.)
My Youtube homepage is a complete mess at the moment. Is there a way to reset it? Purge the damn thing and start over? For all its faults, there are plenty of good-natured, entertaining and talented uploaders on the site. Not to mention a slew of incredibly helpful tutorials and guides for just about anything (especially for art, design, and music). Sadly they often aren’t the ones given the most exposure. I plan to overhaul my subscribed channels and steer my use towards content that helps me focus on my hobbies and interests.
I’m also looking into what alternative platforms offer a similar experience to Instagram, without the baggage or promoted feeds. Currently both VSCO and Pixelfed have sparked my interests when it comes to uploading and displaying content. Arguably, when it comes to curating imagery for research or inspiration Pinterest is king. But that can be a multidimensional timesink of its own… it’s like walking on a knife edge.
Finally, for now, I’m toying with installing a “procrastination blocker”, to help reign in such dimensions and put the attention back onto better things.
I need to change my personal routine from one of waste to one of reward. The above may be baby steps, but I intend to step forward.