For the past few years, I’ve chosen one weekend day in the year to do what I call Feeds Reboot. I try to systematically look at every subscription, every follow, every algorithmically or chronologically generated everything I see on social platforms, streaming services and news apps, and reset or at least its Review how I work. I cannot recommend it enough.
Every time I reboot the feeds, I suddenly notice a huge increase in how interesting and relevant the internet is. Will it spend the next 364 days slowly plunging into a swamp that I will try to extricate myself from next year? Yes! But I am still making progress.
The point of the Feeds reboot is for the internet to be more intentional. This is not the same as a privacy audit, which is also a good thing to do every year; Rather, it is a way to change what you see online. Odds are, something in your feed — creators on YouTube, old friends on Facebook, the inevitable dance craze on your TikTok For You page — is the result of something you’ve commented on, liked, or just happened to last several months. Or look at years ago. Reboot gives you a chance to start anew, to declare to the Internet that you are no longer the person you once were, and to take more control over the algorithms that run so much of your life.
My process has become more complex over time and now consists of three steps: the following audit, mass archive, and a more complex step that I have come to call Feeds Reboot Pro Max.
The following audit is difficult, but really simple: just assess everything you follow everywhere. View your following list on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, view all the sources you follow on RSS, check out all your Discord subscriptions, see all the newsletters you receive, scroll through your podcast subscriptions, and more Check out all the bands you follow. On Spotify to make sure you still care. Don’t worry about adding finer ingredients as this happens naturally over time. Just delete everything you don’t want, and make sure you only sign up for the things you really care about.
The next step is Mass Archive, which is exactly what it sounds like. Do you have a million emails in your inbox? Do you have a Read This Later app loaded with stuff you just haven’t gotten to? How many unseen snaps are on your list? There’s only one way forward: Get rid of it. If you’re feeling chaotic you can delete it or just create a folder called “archive” and dump everything. That way it’ll all be there when you need it… but you won’t. that’s the point.
If you just do those two things, you’ll almost immediately notice that your online life feels more relevant and less overloaded. It always takes the longest the first time because you have a lifetime of feed options to watch; After that every year gets very fast.
Feeds Reboot Pro Max is the next step in controlling your algorithms. This includes seeing how various social algorithms already understand what you like and care about and tweak them whenever possible.
Not every app lets you do this – for example, TikTok won’t give you any control over what you see. But some apps offer more fine-grained control over the algorithm. I’ve included steps for their mobile application, although you can sometimes get similar information in the browser. (And, with YouTube and Facebook in particular, it’s pretty easy to do some bulk actions on a laptop.) Here they are, in no particular order:
- go to your Library tab, then select look at all above your viewing history. Scroll back to everything you’ve seen, hit the three-dot button on the right, and select remove from watch history Also to take it out of your recommendation pool.
- or go nuclear: go AdjustmentThen History & Privacyand just click clear watch history Erase everything and start again.
- you can also click manage all activity And tell YouTube (and other Google services) to purge all your activity after a certain period of time. I have my set of 18 months, but you can also choose to have three months or three years of data to keep with Google.
- go for AdjustmentThen advertisementand then advertising theme To see a list of all the categories advertisers can use to reach you. If you see one you don’t want, tap on it and select see less,
- Go to your profile, tap Following in the top right, tap on More at least talk grade. Unfollow everything in there that you don’t want anymore.
- go for Settings & Privacy > Settings choose more your time on facebook, Kill View Settings below get more out of your timethen tap News Feed Preferences, and either add or remove people from your favorite and unfollow lists to control how often they appear in your feed. (Unfollowing people without unfriending them remains a lesser tactic on Facebook.)
- go for Settings & Privacy > SettingsSearch permissionschoose more Ad preferences, to select advertising theme top of the page, and you can see and edit all the topics Facebook tells advertisers you’re in. (By the way, this list mirrors the one on Instagram, so you only need to tweak it in one place.)
- go for Settings > Privacy & SecurityChoose content you are looking for, and review the topics and interests that Twitter has in store for you. Unfollow the people you no longer want, and choose the suggested topics that seem most interesting.
- go for Settings & Privacy > Advertising Datathen choose interest categories, You’ll be presented with everything LinkedIn thinks you care about and can turn off what you don’t.
- Most streaming services have a feature — usually under some phrase like “watching history” or in the menu where you manage your Continue Watching section — that lets you control whether the service informs you of your recommendations. What is it used for? I will do this on all your services more than once a year.
- For example, in Netflix, this only works on the web: under your profile picture, go to your account, View your profile picture in Profile and parental controlsthen choose watch activity, click on hide icon next to anything you don’t want to appear in your viewing history or notify your recommendations in the future.
Some people I’ve talked to over the years recommend a more scorched-earth version of the Feeds reboot. They say that you should unfollow everyone everywhere from time to time and regenerate all your feeds, going forward naturally. It seems like overkill to me, but the purpose is the same. Modern life is fed and run by algorithms, and if you don’t go for your inputs, you’ll eventually end up hating the output.
The real responsibility here should be on the platform itself to make this process simpler and more transparent – to tell you more about what they know and let you change that. Facebook is probably the model here: a lot of its information is buried deep in its Settings menu, but you can view and edit it in a comprehensive list of everything from your search history to everything the platform thinks you want. care.
Until then, the feeds have rebooted. This is an excellent weekend project for such a long weekend.