Fixing the Internet

Posted by Zachary Wright on March 30, 2016

A few days ago I wrote in a post about how due to its availability, and simplicity to consume, certain aspects of the Internet, like social media and Reddit, have an addictive nature. We always have our cell phones within reach and it’s easy to sit at a computer and endlessly scroll through our feed, or even just look at things we’ve already seen before.

Since then I’ve taken a few steps towards what I like to call “fixing the Internet.”

The first thing I did was delete the Reddit application off my iPhone. Of course I can still access Reddit through the browser, but in general I’m too lazy to actually type in the full URL so I end up just not going there. I left social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, because I only tend to check those once or twice a day. I also deleted Facebook, but I left the Messenger app, which allows me to stay in touch with people trying to reach me through Facebook.

I also trimmed down the number of people I follow on Twitter, so in a 24 hour time span I don’t have that much to look at on my feed.

While these steps have been effective for me, it may not be the same for you. Whatever app you find yourself checking with every free second of time you have, delete it. Our goal with doing this is to remove that allure of easily accessible, low hanging content that serves no other purpose than to fill time.

By removing this drip feed you will find yourself in moments where you have nothing to do so you pull out your phone to check in on something, only to realize you deleted that something. My advice here, and what I try do myself, is to put the phone back in your pocket and indulge in being bored, with nothing to do or think about.

Have you ever noticed how many people, probably yourself included, say that they have their best ideas in the shower? It’s my belief that this is because the shower is the only place where (so far) you don’t have access your phone and no ability to be distracted by anything. Ironically enough there is a subreddit for this called “shower thoughts.” It wasn’t that long ago when people said that they got their best ideas when using the bathroom, but electronic stimulation has managed to extend it’s time monopoly to our toilets.

The point is we do some of our best and most creative thinking whenever we have nothing else to do but to think, so in those moments when you would normally pull our your phone to check your deleted application, take some time to be lost in thought instead.

The second thing I did was install a chrome plugin called Requestly. The goal here was to have my browser automatically redirect from certain subreddits to other websites. The reason for this is because some subreddits are legitimately good communities and the best resource of information related to that topic. Other communities, usually the bigger ones, are often toxic, both in the way they waste my time and in their regard for their fellow human beings.

I configured requestly to redirect any requests to the front page of reddit, /r/all, games, and gaming to my Feedly RSS feed. My feed is configured with websites I actually like that allow me to get news on topics I care about, without the negative and needless commentary from the Reddit community, and unhindered by the weird laundry list of restrictions on what can or cannot be posted to subreddits automoderated by robots.

Next I installed another Chrome extension that just removes comments from Youtube videos. I feel like this is self-explainatory. Youtube commenters, clothed in the immense power of anonymity, really highlight the worst characteristics of humanity and I hope that if there are aliens out there watching us they aren’t reading Youtube comments.

Then I installed yet another Chrome extension, News Feed Eradicator, which removes your entire news feed from Facebook. It also tears out those tantalizing, click bait news headlines that show up on the right hand side. The upside of this is that you can still notifications and messages, allowing you to use Facebook as a communication medium instead of a neverending news reel.

So far this has been enough and my mind, especially in those minutes I used to fill on my phone, feels like quieter place.