On July 1, I started The Zero Feeds Experiment – a 30-day trial, abstaining from all news and blog feeds (I was already abstaining from social media feeds). So how’s that workin’ out for me? This post is my one month follow-up.
These Three Feeds
For me, there were three particular feeds that…fed my daily habit of checking in and scrolling like a robot for a ‘1’ in a long list of zeroes: the Google Feed, WordPress Reader, and Feedly.
Without Google Feed
I missed my Google Feed right away – a lot. In this list, just a simple swipe away on my Android Home Screen, I was fed what seemed like an expertly curated collection of the best stuff on the web, tailored precisely to my personal preferences. There was rarely a ‘zero’ in a list of good ‘ones’!
Ditching this left a small vacuum. I left it turned off for a whole month. Yet the hole it left was kind of filled by Google News on my desktop PC at work.
I have been more vigilant overall to avoid general news because it’s too sensational and hyper-focused on only the worst happenings in the world. But with so much apparently going on this year, I’ve been drawn to check the Google News “For you” section: “Recommended based on your interests.” It’s basically the same as the Google Feed on my phone.
You might think I sort of cheated. But removing this feed from my phone and limiting check-ins to my PC at the office drastically reduced my habit. It helped sever a twitchy-connection with my phone.
Here’s a surprising fact: I turned the Google Feed back on my phone 2 days ago. Yet I have not been checking it! I just don’t have the habit like I did. Over time, I will likely resume this one though.
Without WordPress Reader
This feed lives inside the WordPress app. It makes blog checking very convenient. Liking and Commenting on posts is super easy. And the act of reading is better because you see the same formatted text and layout – no ads! – for every post no matter what blog it comes from.
Ignoring this feed, the main problem I avoided was the incessant habit of checking my phone, as if boredom could be my worst enemy. By itself, this feed was not bad at all since I don’t follow too many blogs. But it was one that contributed to my overall phone-feed-twitch.
My other bigger goal was to promote the practice of visiting people’s actual blogs. This way, I would see an individual’s blog theme with its unique colors, fonts, and layout. I think there is something special lost when everyone looks like the same democratized post listing.
While it has been nice to click over to live blogs, I do miss the convenience of the WP Reader. I have not resumed using it. For now, I’m letting my hands-off approach with this one coast.
Feedly was the most exhaustive feed I took a break from last month. It lets you amass a never-ending stream of headlines from multiple sources. Every article! In reverse chrono order! For what Feedly is, it’s done very well. The interface is clean. Form and Function shake hands, smiling warmly.
Abandoning Feedly forced me to visit many individual websites, “on-the-line!” At first, this was downright jarring – yuck! So many intrusive ads, banners, videos… Different layouts, colors, fonts… Too many sites to tediously check on.
To mitigate the gross problems, I had to organize the sites I frequent into a folder on my browser’s toolbar. And I had to delete some! I can’t visit all the sites. My eyeballs get tired, and my time is limited.
The other thing that helped manage this transition was time. After 4 weeks, I finally felt accustomed to manually checking websites instead of relying on an aggregator like Feedly.
There was an overall net effect, a gain, from breaking my phone-twitch feed habits. My phone felt calmer, or I did when using it. There was less to look at on my phone; it felt simpler and less demanding.
And I read a lot, mostly books on my kindle. I got involved with both fictional stories and non-fiction. I still watched a little YouTube sometimes. And at the end of the month, I picked up an old casual phone game to play, which has been fun. Also, I kept my blog post frequency up high, maybe too high.
Relying less on my phone to check sites meant using my Chromebook more, and that’s been nice because the display is huge compared to my phablet. I enjoy websites in their full ad-laden glory. (I seriously should consider subscribing to high-quality sites that might have no ads or at least far less intrusive ones.)
Lastly, I need more time to experiment. Now that it’s been nearly 5 weeks, I feel like I’ve settled into this new paradigm of being feed-free. I want to keep it up for now, see how it goes.