Digital Intentionalization: Don’t click that next button

It’s very tempting to click on “that next button” wether that is from YouTube, Netflix, Facebook videos or any endless buffet of consumption. You start watching a video about a topic you’re really interested in to and end up watching something weird after 3 hours. As I do more research in my personal journey of Digital Intentionalization, this is probably one of the most obvious ones. We let the platform play the next content.

The biggest problem that I see with these automated / personalised next buttons is that you settle simply accept someone’s recommendation without having a second thought about it. Again, you don’t have the full intention of consuming that content.

If you correlate this in the physical world, it’s like going to a buffet restaurant where you have the choice which food to eat, however after finishing the first meal, you just let someone put food in your table based from your previous meals – no need to stand nor choose from the menu. I for one like eating in buffets for the reason of tasting a variety of food (same thing with having unrestricted access to content), however, I know my limits. I wouldn’t just eat a potato chips after eating a fried dumpling, I’d rather go for a roasted lamb.

So given you “shouldn’t” press that next button, what should you do instead? I have 5 “tricks” to avoid getting in this rabbit hole.

  1. Turn off auto-play settings. This is how to do it in Facebook Videos, Netflix, and YouTube. I know it’s a hassle that you have to go to certain loops just to configure this. Remember, they don’t want you to do it in the first place. All these media companies would want you to consume and consume and consume content. This setting is a onetime thing, or at least per device and per account.
  2. Set limits. There are a lot of ways to do this right now. There are a lot of applications that offer this service. I would stick to the ones the operating system offers. In iOS and MacOS, there is a ScreenTime feature where you can set app-limits to these media services. There are also ways to do this in Windows 10 and Android. This will allow you to have a more conscious decision if you really need (or want) to watch that next video. I for one find it annoying that I get disrupted after playing a video after 30 minutes late at night, but it’s totally worth it. It’s a reminder it’s probably time to sleep. 🙂
  3. Schedule something else. Often the reason we got into these situations (buffet-table-eating) is that we were bored at a specific point in time, or maybe we’re overwhelmed into a task and we want to distract ourselves a bit. We both know deep down that you shouldn’t be watching all these videos, but you do it anyway. What I find useful to avoid these “down times” is to schedule something else. If you find yourself that you get bored at 2PM to 3PM watching endless videos, maybe it’s time you schedule it for something more useful. This will force you to do something else that you’ve commit. Let’s say “meetings”, “exercise”, that FaceTime with a friend or distant relatives, or play 1 game of Dota 2.
  4. Watch with someone. When something is done with a peer or a group, it takes a certain consent or agreement which content to consume. This is very effective as there is a conscious decision that whatever content there is, everyone (or at least most) should be comfortable with it. Obviously, not all content should be consumed as a peer or group, but I find it more fun when watching a TV series or movie. At least it’s not just me who thinks the series is trash or genuinely good. After watching, you also open some time to discuss the content.
  5. Be conscious of your time. It took me quite a longer journey to realise that we don’t really have enough time in this world. We can’t watch the entire library of YouTube & Netflix in our lifespan (100 years) – and you shouldn’t (unless it’s part of your job). One thing that I fancied lately is reading books. Since 2018, I read an average of 30+ books per year. If I am lucky to be alive by 80, then that means I can only read around 1,500 books from today until that time. How about spending that time to build “that startup”, the time to present at conferences, and so on? Once you get the grasp of this concept, your mental immune system will be more resistant on the junk contents you see.

There are other tricks that you can pull up that might work for you, but these are working for me right now. No self-help book or motivational video can help you with this if your mental power is weak, what you need are “tricks” to play with your emotions. These companies hire the best data scientists and experts in psychology so we get addicted to it. Who knows, maybe these platforms will come up with more aggressive strategy and algorithms for us to be sucked into the void. For now, start by not clicking on that next button.

MJ is an experienced technologist based in Sydney, Australia, a Microsoft MVP since 2015, and a certified professional with over 10 years of working experience ranging from Mobile, Cloud, Web and DevOps. He currently owns Datachain Consulting, a company that focuses on democratizing AI and Blockchain technologies. He is also a technical advisor to some technology startups. His roles allow him to explore the cutting edge technologies of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, IoT, Edge Computing, and the Cloud.

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