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How I Auto-Medicate My Online Consumption

Since 2013 I have actively battled my own internet usage. The main culprits to a bad experience are unhealthy and/or endless content.

My first attempts to fix this involved blocking sites completely. This didn’t work as no matter what lock I attached, I always had a key or alternative route. I would often block the sites via my router, browser extensions, or host files on my computer. I’d always find a way around when lacking willpower.

I found that filtering in combination with redirection proved a better strategy.

Below are some tools and tricks I’ve learned to automate / self govern my web usage.

Filtering Reddit

A strategy that works for many people is to only subscribe to subreddits they like so their /r/frontpage becomes a great experience. I was unable to stop myself from going to /r/all and /r/popular which became the endless pit.

A better strategy has me filter Reddit using Reddit Enhancement Suite (RES), a browser extension that gives advanced control over the older Reddit layout. I filter to the extreme and have ~2000 subreddit’s filtered from /r/all and /r/popular.

I initially blocked out hate groups that proliferated a few years back (most have now been permanently banned), then moved onto filtering some massively popular subreddits that suffer from too many people. It felt great, so I learned the RES keyboard shortcuts to make it easier (period key, f key, enter).

I now block any subreddit that:

  • Is too large of a community to be useful, such as /r/pics or /r/funny
  • Is “news,” meme, or anime centric
  • Is for citizens of a specific country (/r/sweden)
  • Is sports ball related
  • Has lost its original special sauce (such as /r/wholesomememes)
  • Is injury or cringe focused
  • etc…

In addition, I have a safety check to limit the amount of Reddit usage per day. This helps for the rough days. I use Leechblock to redirect to my Trello to-do list once I hit 100 minutes in a given day. I’ve experimented reducing the time limit, but this works for the worst case.

Distraction-Free YouTube

The same strategy works for YouTube. Instead of blocking, I filter.

To filter YouTube I use DF Youtube which disables autoplay, removes the sidebar, hides feeds, playlists, comments, etc. A video page only shows the video (I use this addon to always show the video in theater mode).

If I go to YouTube’s home page, I redirect (using the Redirector extension) to the subscriptions page. The content here is curated and intentional. The rest of endless and unhealthy YouTube is hidden.

Filtering Hacker News

Hacker News does a great job cleaning up unhealthy content, so to filter someone endless content I use the Redirector extension to always redirect to hckr news, an alternative reader that shows only the top 20 links of the day. This keeps it focused and manageable.

Redirecting News Sites

Leechblock has a list of all major news sites. If I visit any of these sites, it redirects to the text version of NPR, a fast loading alternative with no JavaScript or image clutter.