People arespending huge amounts of time scrolling through feeds.
I'm not talking about chat apps like Snapchat or channel apps like Twitch. Those are cool.
I'm talking about algorithmicfeeds of poststhat scroll forever and ever off the bottom of the page.
Posts with Upvotes or Hearts or Likes. Posts with Retweets or Shares or Revines or Reblogs.
The biggest offenders are Twitter and Facebook.
When was the last time you scrolled thru a feed and felt refreshed and invigorated?
Felt you'd learned something new and useful?
Felt that it was time well spent?
Most of the time you read a social feed it's just a quick diversion, a release, a way to procrastinate. It will give you a few mildly funny things to snort at and a few terrible things to get mad about and maybe a photo of someone's suntanned feet in the foreground against a white beach and a blue ocean in Thailand so you can feel a little #fomo.
You feel kind of bad afterwards. You know you're just wasting time, but it's hard to stop because you MIGHT MISS SOMETHING. So hard, in fact, that Facebook now has a BILLION DAILY USERS.
The cliche is that if you're not paying, you're not the user, you're the product.
More precisely, ad impressions are the product. Every hour you spend feed scrolling creates ad impressions, which are sold to advertisers for a few cents per thousand. Turns out, every hour you spend scrolling is sold for surprisinglycheap.
That means that to Facebook, an hour of your time is worth just under 10 cents.
18b USD per year / 1 billion people / 365 days a year / 0.5 hours per day = 10 cents per hour
Facebook is the blue whale. You're the plankton.
(Wait, $18 billion? Ten cents per hour? Does that mean roughly 180 BILLION HUMAN HOURS were spent Facebooking in 2015? Why YES IT DOES!)
They're constantly experimenting, tweaking their product. Anything that makes you waste even more time per day, ships. This is called Driving User Engagement.
After years of optimization, they've come up with some pretty powerful ways of keeping people Engaged.
The top nav bar always hovers over your feed as you scroll, showing little bright red notification bubbles, begging for clicks. The smallest things trigger new notifications. Some dude you met once at a party three years ago clicked Like on a picture of your butt while you were squatting on #LegDay. Ding!
By default, every notification hits your email or buzzes your phone or both.
The feed suggests new friends. The feed suggests reposting years-old content ("Memories"). The feed suggests Liking things that your Friends Liked. The feed suggests putting a french flag in front of your profile pic.
They've reduced the effort to participate down to a single tap. Just say Yes.
All this extremely low effort content floods out to your 1000 or so closest friends' feeds. By default, almost every action you take is public.
Infinite scrolling feeds start at the very top every time you open the app. There's no way to pick up where you left off last time and efficiently catch up. Instead, you just have to scroll down and down and down until you notice posts you've already seen before. This is by design!
Reposts (retweets/shares/etc) and non-chronological feed algorithms mean that new and old posts are interleaved. You can scroll for a really long time and never really know when you're "done". While you scroll the bright red notification bubble lights up again because there are now "9+" new posts since you started reading. Clicking sends you all the way back up to the top.
I'm sure they A/B tested this and found that it makes the Average Session Time go up. Such User Engagement. Wow.
Sexy photos. Baby photos. Beer drinking photos. Happy Birthday! Political screeds. Thoughts and prayers.
Feeds are really random, an infinite list of bite-size miscellaneous posts. That makes them unsatisfying.
If you watch thirty minutes of Netflix, it's not exactly productive, but you do get a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Thirty minutes of feedscrolling is neither productive nor particularly satisfying. It's justthere, always in your pocket, always a finger flick away. It can be consumed anytime, anywhere, in bed, standing in line, sitting on the toilet, at lunch, orin a boring meeting. Maybe that's why85% of video on Facebook is viewed with the sound turned off.
So the content is low effort and the consumption is low effort, too. The content that gets rewarded with lots of Likes and Shares is occasionally good but usually unoriginal. The whole feed is mostly noise.
Well, ideally we'd nuke the Distraction Industrial Complex from orbit and build a better way of hanging out over the internet.
A new way that prioritizes quality over quantity. A new way that respects our attention and values our time. A new way free from centralized control.
Until we make that happen, here are a few simple fixes that worked for me.
You can keep Messenger, but get rid of Facebook and Twitter. At veryleast turn off the notifications. There's nothing healthy about having your pants buzz every time some guy from middle school Wants To Play Candy Crush Saga With You
If Sam Altman can quit, so can you.
2/ The platform rewards negativity and snark. There are occasional attacks on me and a lot on my friends. Outrage does too well on Twitter.Sam Altman (@sama) June 15, 2016
4/ I feel worse after using Twitter. Importantly, I learn more about the way in other waysmy brain gets polluted here.Sam Altman (@sama) June 15, 2016
It helps to block twitter.com from your hosts file.
That way, you can keep your Facebook and use it for events and chat, but without getting sucked down the rabbit hole of "news".
The faster we can get to 100% ad-blocker adoption, the faster this business model of wasting billions of hours of people's time for ten cents per hour will die.
Kill the feeds and enjoy the sunshine!