• Beau Steward

Unhealthy Online Content Consumption

I've been suspecting for a while that I have an unhealthy relationship with online content. My mom accused me of having a computer addiction when I was a teenager, though my apparent addiction got me where I am professionally. But my computer related content consumption has evolved. Also, the way I use computers has evolved.

Technology has changed in such a way that what use to be the realm of the nerd has become so accessible to the masses that everyone can really get into it. Just a week ago, my mom was asking me about Roku, and she's a bit of a technophobe.

Now, when I say media, I mean all forms of it. I've been on twitter for almost 12 years. I've had an unhealthy relationship with it for a very long time. I didn't really admit this to myself until relatively recently, maybe in the past 2 years, at which point I started taking steps to make that relationship healthier.

My youtube account is almost 7 years old. I've been using youtube for a bit longer than that, but in those early days, I did so without an account. In more recent years, when I started consuming youtube content on my TV instead of a computer, I started taking advantage of subscriptions as it made it easier to locate the content that I wanted to consume as it was made available. I've also had an unhealthy relationship here. I've taken steps to try to make this better.

I stopped using facebook a long time ago. I got little to nothing out of it. I only have an account so that I can access the GALT group, but I still almost never log into it. I would prefer not to have an account there, and the fact that I don't really see any benefits of accessing GALT there, I may, once again, become accountless there.

I have an instagram account. This is probably one place where I have a decently healthy relationship with social media content. This is primarily about my dogs, and I avoid anything on there that may, in any way, be a contributor to stress. That means I don't follow politics, family, or anything that could be controversial there. It's about 95% dogs, and 90% greyhounds.

I have a netflix account. This has been a great way to do the whole "cord cutting" thing, granted I've been doing this since before the term "cord cutting" I think. I haven't decided on the health of my relationship with netflix. One problem I see is the large amount of content I want to consume there and not enough time to consume it.

I use to get a large amount of my locally stored media content from iTunes. Until recently, this relationship was a bit tenuous, and became a source of stress when Apple updated their DRM. I would consider this a fairly toxic relationship because of the anxiety their changes have caused.

I could probably continue this for a long time. I've used various other services over the years to get the content I wanted. The problem I'm finding is much of this is causing me stress. Stress because one of my sources of content, in my opinion, betrayed me. Stress because there's so much to consume that I can't possibly consume it all. Stress from those days when my subscribed channels aren't producing a lot of content for a day and I run out and "have nothing else to watch" (which is obviously a lie to myself). Some of this has had a financial cost for those cases where I want to keep the content local, so I purchased a large amount of storage for it (I have a NAS with 15TB of storage available).

One very troubling thing that I've realized is I tend to prioritize this content over more healthy content, such as content to help me advance my career or do better at my job. I have some books to read or listen to but they tend to get shelved in favor of the latest from Game Grumps or the latest episode of whatever TV show I'm engrossed in on netflix. I've committed the sin of binge watching. I've prioritized this media consumption over getting chores done. I've prioritized reddit and twitter over getting work done. I've prioritized gaming over going out or otherwise socializing.

So I have an unhealthy relationship with online media in general.

One of the things I want to do this year is to work on reducing the influence of social media on my life. Changing a 13 year habit is going to be hard. I've considered quitting twitter outright, but I'm not sure if that will happen. It might be the right thing to do. At the very least, I plan to make it private and remove the app from my phone. Much like what other content creators have done, I will likely shift to only using twitter on a computer, if at all. Additionally, I'm planning to cut down my follows to remove any potentially remaining toxic content there.

Just a little bit ago I unsubscribed from over half of the youtube channels I was subscribed to. Most of it is more educational content, now. Primarily it's science, technology, news relating to those areas, and few more entertainment related channels I really enjoy.

iTunes is already dead for me. Their updated DRM means I can no longer watch that content on my TV, as I don't have an Apple TV and I don't plan to drop yet more money to feed this habit. I still have a lot of content on my Jelllyfin server to consume so it'll really be a while before that even becomes a problem.

I'm not really ready to drop netflix, but I will likely spend some time cleaning up my saved shows. I think what I might do is instead of saving shows to watch later that I end up never getting to, I'll only save shows I decide to actually watch when I decide to start watching it. Something else worth considering is to ban binge watching. And, really, this will apply to Amazon Prime, though I use that far less (I did binge watch The Expanse).

I guess what I'm ultimately aiming to do is to shift my online media consumption to media which enriches me in some way. It's kinda like adopting minimalism in my media consumption. I want to get away from not having enough time to consume my healthy content.

Thankfully, I haven't let any of this affect my dogs. They've only become a part of my life relatively recently (2018) and my care for them has always been a priority. I think this is one of the many things these guys have helped with me, as I feel they have helped me realize just how toxic my relationship with online content is. When I feel like I have to sacrifice that consumption to care for them, my general priorities are pretty fucked.

I've only touched on, briefly, the various platforms I use and what I think about my usage. As I go, I'll probably post a blog post about more specific things about them. For now, I need to do some self-reflection to figure out how to make more positive changes.

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