A little fence here, a little speed bump there...

Can we redefine the tools we use, avoiding endless rabbit holes by adding a little more friction to the process?

A little fence here, a little speed bump there...
Photo by Nabil Saleh / Unsplash

Continuing with my little crusade to simplify my life after a two-week digital detox, next up is YouTube. Actually, next up was Pinterest, but after realizing I can just search site:pinterest.com cat memes in any search engine and check out the "images" tab, it seemed pointless to keep it. Seems to be a pattern.

None of these services really offers much more than an online search paired with a bookmark manager. That's what they're promising, right? Find <inspiration / education / entertainment / whatever> and add it to some list, where you can amass a collection of things you'll never bother looking at again. (It's not just me, right?)

What they all excel at though, what they need to excel at for their investors, is making sure you never leave. You like these whatevers, so here's some loosely related whatevers, yet more recommended whatevers, and infinite scrolling so you can scan through millions of all the older whatevers. Make "friends" with people and see their whatevers. We'll also opt you in to every notification under the sun when you sign up, then email you reminders about all the whatevers you're missing out on. And here's an ad or two.. hundred.

YouTube is the same thing. Yes, there are a lot amazing creators, putting out amazing content. But YouTube is in the business of making sure you never leave and they are good at it. As soon as I open the home feed, my FOMO kicks in full gear and I start wondering about all the things I didn't know or care about 30 seconds ago. Oh wow, that guitar hero cheater was finally caught! Woah, the most dangerous plants are spiky avocados?? Why is Luke's face better now (when?) than in Mandalorian?!? I need to know!

There are some browser plugins that do wonders for cutting out all the distractions and suck-you-ins all over the site. There's one called UnDistracted that looks good. Another one, called Unhook, hides nearly everything. It has an option to hide the home feed, so you see nothing but your subscriptions on the left.

There's also an option to just redirect your home feed page to the subscriptions page, where at least the feed seems to be limited to creators your subscribed to, showing just the recent content you've missed. If you're subscribed to hundreds of accounts though, that's still a heck of a rabbit hole.

Where the addon really shines is hiding like absolutely everything when you select a video to watch. Both sidebars, live chat, comments, and pretty much everything but the video is hidden. Finding something else to watch means deliberately going back and looking for it.

I think that's half the battle, placing a few barriers up to make it just slightly tougher to keep going. Not making the site impossible to use, but introducing a little friction. The more the content (videos, photos, memes) is right there, in your face, just one click away, the easier it is to get lost in it.

Another option is to just bookmark the creators you like somewhere else. I'm trying out Raindrop.io atm, which is an online bookmark manager with plugins and apps for just about every browser and device. You can create collections to organize your bookmarks, and then add tags to them to further organize them.

Everything I need, tucked safely away. I don't have to worry about losing it forever, but I don't have to worry about going back to the source and ending up consuming an hour of content and completely forgetting what I originally came for. Seems like a great tool so far.

So what'd I do next? After unsubscribing to over half the accounts I was following (great content, but if I need some woodworking technique or have an electrical question, I'm sure they'll show up in the search results again), I opened the remaining ones in a separate window and saved all the tabs under a "youtube" category.

I added a few tags depending on the type of the content and then deleted my YouTube account. Actually, since I have a YouTube account but not a YouTube channel, I had to actually create a channel and then immediately delete it to remove my subscriptions. ๐Ÿคจ