Onur's Blog

Digital Hygiene 101: Take Control Over Your Feeds to Regain Mindfulness

Apr 26, 2020

A digital feed is an online stream of content which gets updated as new content is pushed by the feed’s sources. Generally, content is created by users on the social media platform, to be consumed by their followers.

All popular social media platforms feature some type of feed: Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook. Operators of these platforms benefit from increased engagement by their users, so they employ techniques designed to achieve that end. Unfortunately, they often do so at the expense of their users’ well-being. Below are 7 rules to help you retain control over your screen time, without having to leave social media for good, ordered from most important to least important.

Rule #1: Avoid non-chronological feeds

On most online platforms, the order of content is determined by an algorithm designed to maximize user engagement, i.e. addict you and keep you looking at ads for as long as possible. Examples: Facebook news feed, Twitter “top tweets”, Instagram explore tab, Tiktok.

Rule #2: No feeds or social media apps on the phone

Your phone is always within your reach. Access feeds only on your laptop, in order not to condition yourself to constantly check it. Don’t install social media or video apps on your phone.

Rule #3: Follow with purpose

Your digital experience changes with each new person/source you follow. Be mindful about the utility of the information you would obtain before following a new source.

Rule #4: Limit the number of people/things you follow

The amount of content you will have to go through increases roughly linearly with the number of sources you follow. You probably won’t see everything your 500 followees share—maybe it’s time to unfollow some of them.

Rule #5: Schedule and limit your exposure

Your brain has a limited capacity to process and hold information. Schedule a certain hour of the day to receive it, and don’t surpass it. Example: No more than 30 minutes of social media, restricted to 10–11 am.

Rule #6: Block generously and ruthlessly

If you don’t like what you’re seeing, block or unfollow immediately. This is the hardest when someone posts content that is sometimes useful, but otherwise annoying too. Generally, we put up with it for too long until we block someone.

Rule #7: Mute words

Avoid toxic memes by muting related words, e.g. Trump, ISIS. This will filter out any post that contains that word. Click here to do it on Twitter now—it’s easy.

Follow these simple set of rules, and restore your control over social media and your digital experience in no time.

This post made it to the Hacker News front page. Also posted as a Twitter thread.