YouTube is a massive time waster. There’s no secret there. But unlike other distracting platforms that are easier to give up like Facebook or Twitter, YouTube actually can add a lot of value to our lives. Using YouTube to gain value while not letting the platform take our valuable time away from us is the challenge.
However, I’ve managed to stop wasting time on YouTube thanks to one simple, even a little bit outdated tool- an RSS feed.
I know feeds have become the boogeyman when it comes to wasting time online. But don’t let the semantics scare you. An RSS feed is not like your standard feed on social media. If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, it’s basically a customizable feed for funneling all of your blogs, websites, subreddits, and even YouTube channels and playlists into one place. The one I use, Newsflow on Windows 10, is free and doesn’t have ads. Yes, this means not watching videos on your phone and deleting the YouTube app. But if you’re trying to spend less time on YouTube, then this is a good thing. RSS feeds are different (and superior) for a few key reasons:
- RSS feeds don’t “recommend” things to you. They can’t. The biggest problem with most feeds is that they recommend videos and articles and people to follow as distractions to keep you on the site or the app longer. And this works because the recommendation algorithms behind the most addictive platforms have multi-billion dollar companies (aka Google and Facebook) behind them. The time, money and engineering that goes into these algorithms is insane and it’s insanely effective. RSS feeds however don’t work like that. RSS feeds only have articles and videos from sources that you select- nothing more.
- RSS feeds require you to choose high quality information sources. In order to add sources to your RSS feed, you have input them manually (I’ll tell you how to do so with a YouTube channel later). Unlike the one-click wonder of subscribing on YouTube, this takes a bit of work. And this is a good thing because it forces you to actually think about “subscribing” to a channel or following a website or blog instead of just automatically clicking subscribe for every other channel you come across or auto-filling your email because a pop-up window on a site told you to. RSS feeds put you in total control, not the algorithms and their billion dollar attention merchant masters.
- It’s free. And there are no ads. Ads don’t show up when I watch a YouTube video or read a post on my RSS reader. I know some people may say that it takes away money from the creators but if that’s how you feel then I think it would be more beneficial to donate a few dollars to their Patreon directly. If you find yourself balking at the idea of giving money to them then I think you may either be following too many sources or you don’t think the content is worth your money. If you’re following too many people to give them $5 each on Patreon then maybe you’re following too many. I have 9 sources on my RSS reader, one of which is a subreddit (which I created, so there’s no one to donate to) and two of them are the blog and YouTube channel of the same person. Donating $35 at $5 each to 7 people is not going to set me back financially- most of us probably spend more on fast food and coffee in a week. And if you don’t think the content is worth your money then it’s probably not worth your time or attention either so why are you watching/reading it?
- RSS feeds don’t show comments. I have wasted so much time just reading the comments on YouTube videos. Secretly, I love drama. Like grab the SkinnyPop and turn on The Maury Show, I am so here for it. And drama is exactly what the YouTube comments section is. Nobody is having an intellectual and scholarly debate in the comments. So as much as I love drama, I had to let the comments section go. Hopefully I can find better ways to entertain myself.
How to set up an RSS feed for a YouTube Channel
There are 2 things you will need to set up the RSS feed for a YouTube channel: the channel ID and the following url.
https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=*insert channel ID here*
I’m not that tech savy so I won’t pretend to know how or why this works. I’ve given the url so let me show how to find the channel ID for any YouTube channel. (Side note: I’m using Chrome as my browser.)
- Go to the channel’s home page. The url should say “https://www.youtube.com/user/*channel name*” at the top.
2. Right click anywhere on the page and select “View page source”
3. The page source can look a little crazy but all you need to do is type “Ctrl+F”
4. In the search box, type “channelID” (no spaces)
5. Copy & paste the channel ID and insert it into the url
6. Copy & paste the completed url into your RSS reader of choice and save the feed to your reader.
7. Enjoy your freedom 🙂