The Zero Feeds Experiment

Brain Atrophy

I think I know why our brains hurt. Instead of reading, we’re scanning thousands of text snippets. Headline after headline, tweet after tweet. You and I over-process; the brain-filter is clogged. It’s time to stop feeding on all the feeds, not just social media.


Aggregators

I use three services that collect or curate articles on my favorite interests: WordPress Reader, Feedly, and Google Discover.

WordPress Reader

I’ve considered abandoning the WordPress Reader to force myself into the habit of actually visiting people’s blogs.

The Reader is simple, convenient, and great for consistency. But it makes everyone’s blogs look the same. The Reader lacks a blogger’s personal touch of expression via their theme.

I want to see someone’s blog not stripped of its unique design. Aggregators supply lots of content, but they reduce blog posts to nondescript data-points. 

Feedly

Besides the WP Reader, I use Feedly daily. The name itself is about feeding on feeds!

What’s nice about Feedly is it’s algorithm-free. You can see every single article from every single blog site you follow – in chronological order!

While this means you’ll never miss a thing, the downside is you must track and absorb everything yourself. So I often reevaluate the sites I follow. Some sites are so prolific, it’s like they’re spamming the feed. I sometimes pare them down.

Google Feed

This is content curation at its best. Originally called the Google Feed, the Verge describes the initial purpose:

“Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.”

Sounds like addiction to me.

Now called Google Discover (yet still labeled “Google feed” in Android settings), this will be a tough one to drop!

On my Android phone, it’s a quick thumb-swipe to the left of the home-screen. It presents an always updated list of news and articles that you’re interested in.

About the signal-to-noise ratio, it’s easily the best feed by far, surfacing a ton of relevant stuff. Better still, I can easily optimize the algorithm settings without leaving the feed. I help curate the content!

I truly discover a lot of articles I’m passionate about in this feed and enjoy it more than Feedly. Leaving this one behind will test me.


The Need To Feed

We are so accustomed to social feeds – and the mindless constant scrolling – that our brains find it hard to think outside that feed box.

Whether social media streams or RSS readers, the convenience of aggregated content brings efficiency. You consume content at speed and at scale – like your brain is a multi-core computer!

But this has problems.

I know from experience that my eyes fluttering over hundreds of headlines and titles also brings fatigue. It’s mind-numbing.

There’s often a feeling of low-grade background anxiety induced by web feeds. I’m sure you’ve felt it too. I sometimes experience a nervous angst, needing to read everything. It makes my brain feel scrambled sometimes. Overwhelmed. All that to hopefully find rare diamonds of information.

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Fasting From Feeds

So as part of an experiment, I’ve decided to try living without any feeds!

This shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve been practicing #socialmediadistancing for a few weeks now – and I’m enjoying the calmer and simpler life. I deleted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp from my phone, plus their bookmarked icons from my browser’s toolbar. My accounts are intact but inactive. It’s a 30-day trial.

Starting July 1st, I will delete the Feedly app from my phone. I will avoid the Reader tab in the WordPress mobile app. And I’ll turn off the Google feed on my Android phone.

Instead, I will manually click to websites or blogs like a net-surfing neanderthal from the 1990’s!

One challenge I foresee here, beyond overcoming the reflex to check feeds, is being forced to slow down. Clicking through several websites will take more time and be tedious. It’s less efficient. But as I’ve written recently, slowing down like this is usually beneficial.

Another drawback to this will be ads. My feeds don’t show ads. But the websites or blogs I like to visit are ad-supported, not subscription based. So I must face obtrusive and distracting ads. I’ll look for ways to mitigate deleterious pop-ups.

The point of this experiment is to see how my brain is affected by starvation of aggregated content. Can my thinking improve if it’s not inundated with hundreds of lines of disparate texts to process? My guess is that the slower pace will cause my mind to relax into deeper, stronger thinking.

After this 30-day experiment runs the month of July, I may post my thoughts about any results.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Subtracting Subscriptions

Have you noticed how many subscription services there are these days? There’s a thing called “Subscription Fatigue” now. It’s where you feel nickeled and dimed to oblivion. Like a continual dripping of water that wears away stone, you can’t take any more subs. And I don’t want a single one.


It makes sense that having too many subscriptions is overwhelming and irritating. A bunch of $5 and $10 fees every month add up fast. Your wallet is constantly pinged for money, like your phone is constantly dinged with notifications. It’s stressful.

But I’m against subs altogether for certain categories of things. Most subs seem to be for tech stuff online, digital content.

For a service like streaming music or movies, I think that works okay. But my biggest gripe is towards a software product. A big example for me is Adobe Lightroom software.

Sure, Adobe bundles their software product with online photo storage as a service, complicating the matter. Yet call me old-school, I don’t care; I want to pay one time up front for software like the simple days.

Another example: I signed up for Apple’s 3-month free trial of Apple Music. Nice service. But I canceled because it’s still not worth $10 a month in perpetuity for me.

I also don’t like games in the app store that are pay-to-play with in-app purchases. I would much rather just pay up front for the game and then enjoy it! I think many people feel suckered in with a “free” game to try out, get hooked, and then be expected to pay-up fee after fee to keep playing the game. That’s not fun!


The popular subs now are for streaming TV shows or movies: Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, etc. Later this year, Disney and Apple are starting their own streaming TV/Movie services too!

The irony with these and what may be coming is the unbundling and re-bundling of bundles. People got tired of cable TV. You paid a lot for a lot of content when you only really wanted a small portion of that content. So people cried for a-la-carte TV.

Now we’ve kinda got what we wanted. We became “cord-cutters” and can now choose to pay only for a few shows or services that we want. But unbundling all the content is proving to be too much to manage. So the tide turns toward simplifying: re-package all the stuff together into one cohesive thing. And give me a discount for it too!


Here’s my experience of a subscription in the past: You pay a one time fee up front, and then you get new magazine every month.

Contrast that with a present day subscription: make a payment every month, and you get a one-time thing (streaming music, software).

You can say that you do get something new on occasion, like new songs or new features. But it feels different. It feels like you’re getting charged repeatedly for the same thing over and over.

Some subs charge you monthly. But some charge annually. I think the annunal ones feel better because it’s a one-time payment once a year. You only feel the hit once.

But the monthly charging is like constantly feeling the hit. And if you have multiple subs, you really feel the hit. It’s just too much.

Maybe subscriptions are ok in general but need to be done differently.


Monthly payments are a thing. Most people finance a car for example. You agree to pay monthly, but it’s for a limited time instead of forever – there’s an end to the paying, so there’s hope. And when you finish paying, you get to keep the car!

But with monthly subs, there’s no end. You’re stuck, shackled to the service forever, your funds continually seeping from your bank account over and over again. And if you stop paying, because you never “finish,” then you do not get to keep the product or service!

A trickier subject that stems from subscribing to services and stuff is about ownership. Are we paying for a product or a service? Or is it just access to a product or service. Or is it a license? Or is it like a lease? Do we keep what we’ve paid for? Is it more like renting than buying?

Anyways, those are some random rants against subscriptions. I don’t care for them. Hopefully they’ll be like a passing fad.


Where do you stand on subscriptions? Do you feel like you’ve got too many? Leave feedback in the comments. Or shoot me some email. Take care.