A lot of the apps we use today, particularly social media, are vying for our attention and are explicitly designed to get us hooked.
They make us distracted, and unproductive. In this post, I’ll try to identify practical steps to make the use of these services more effective.
Some of these services have core features that are actually useful, so quitting altogether might not be the best move. For example, Facebook is so good at connecting people that quitting it would be a hassle not just for you, but for your friends.
Apps and services designed to be addictive make it too easy for users to start and keep engaging. This usually requires a very small amount of intention from the user. Adding a little bit of friction could help confirm our actions.
Here are a couple of practical steps we can do to add intent:
The news feed is arguably the most addictive social media feature. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- Infinitely-scrolling, non-chronological posts don’t give the user a sense of accomplishment by reaching the end of the list, taking advantage of the “Zeigarnik Effect” – an urge to finish what is already started.
- The addition of disappearing stories and live streams make users not want to miss out.
- Occasionaly relevant (or self-affirming) posts give the user some sort of a positive reinforcement to keep looking for more.
i-found-it-online-somewherechatter among friends is conveniently relatable.
The following are some tips and ideas to help you control the feed on each platform.
- Install News Feed Eradicator on your browser.
- Use Messenger Lite - it includes the essential features minus My Day.
Bonus: You can visit
Your Profile →
New Posts to see if there are any updates from people you care about.
- Flume App for mac allows customizable navigation menus so you can hide the Feed, and the Explore tab. It also doesn’t show up Instagram Stories.
- Twitter News Feed Eradicator works similarly with the Facebook Feed Eradicator extension.
- You have the option to Mute people you follow which keeps your access to protected Twitter profiles minus the homepage clutter.
- Remove Youtube Recommended extension makes sure you don’t end up in a rabbit hole of cat videos!
This makes sure you don’t have the feed on any of your devices. Nothing adds more intention than actually searching for the topic or person you’d like to see updates from.
Remove all notifications that remind you to check back. Ideally, you should only receive notifications from:
- Real humans you’re concerned about – It doesn’t even have to be all the humans. Some comments, personal messages, and tags belong here. You can also remove like / retweet notifications.
- Security and privacy announcements – Usually, companies make these types of notifications obvious to keep the integrity of their network.
Triggers to using these apps and services are designed to be convenient and easily accessible. The following are ideas to add friction sorted by increasing inconvenience level.
No matter which method you choose, the point is to include extra steps to make accessing these apps less convenient.
If visiting Facebook is a
⌘ + T →
Enter away, chances are, it’s already a part of your muscle memory.
To counter this, remove browser autocomplete suggestions (by hitting
Fn + Shift + Delete on a mac). Ideally, you should be typing the complete domain name.
An equivalent step on mobile is to remove distracting apps from your homescreen. If you’re on Android, a launcher like Evie can also hide apps from the App Drawer, only showing them up on Search.
Remove social media apps on your work device and put them all on a separate device that is always placed away from your workspace.
Obviously, this could only work if you don’t need an Internet connection to be productive.
Another way to approach this is to batch tasks that don’t require an Internet connection and then making sure to disconnect while working on them.
I hope you find these tips useful. Now, go ahead and make the most of your day! ☀️