Perils of YouTube Recommendations

As you probably know, YouTube just sucks you in, especially with their recommended videos that seem so irresistible with their clickbait titles and thumbnails. I’ve found that the best way to protect against excessive YouTube binge watching was to turn off search and watch history. I’ll go through different approaches I’ve tried and explain why I’ve most recently settled on this method.

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Methods Tried

1. Blocking YouTube

I first tried to block YouTube entirely in the hopes that I would stop watching. I removed all YouTube apps from my phone and did a hosts file block of on the computer. However, as I’m a software engineer, there were a lot of topics I needed to look up, like technical tutorials, or how to fix a certain bug. For your job or profession, or especially if you’re a student, there are many good videos on YouTube that have valuable information, so a blanket ban doesn’t make sense and can be quite inconvenient.

2. Unsubcribing

I then unsubscribed from any channel that was unproductive, such as hardware news, cooking recipes, and crucially, “edutainment” like Wendover Productions, Binging with Babish, Kurzgesagt, and other such channels. These channels serve to keep you entertained under the guise of learning more, but really, when are you going to ever utilize this knowledge? I know I’ve never cooked anything from Babish’s videos, and when I did want to make something, I would just look up that specific topic on YouTube. Even if you do find it useful, it is probably only a few videos out of the myriad that they produce, so the signal to noise ratio is extremely high, and for me, it’s not worth wasting so much time for a fraction of the benefit.

I also tried unsubscribing from everything, but again, some channels are quite useful, such as technology conference talks relating to my field, so I couldn’t keep that up.

However, even though I unsubscribed, I still found myself watching videos from these channels, due to the YouTube recommendation engine knowing that you want to watch this type of content, so once you watch one video, it’ll keep receommending more videos from the same channel and similar videos from other channels. To solve this entirely, I needed to get rid of the recommendations themselves.

3. Turning Off Recommendations

This has worked the best out of the solutions I’ve tried. It allows me to not binge watch because YouTube doesn’t actually save what I’ve watched to recommend me anything, yet I can still subscribe to the channels I need. Because I rarely watch videos that YouTube recommends that aren’t in my domain of interest (viral videos, trending videos, etc), I just get bored with even going to the YouTube homepage. Sure, I can search up a creator and watch them that way, but most of my watching comes from impulsively clicking videos on the homepage so I don’t really care to even search up the channels.

To turn off recommendations, you’ll need to turn off and delete search and watch history altogether, which might be a deal breaker for some, but I’ve never really need to go back through my history, I just search for the video I want to find again and the vast majority of the time I find it.

How To Turn Off Recommendations

There you have it, your YouTube should now be pristine, and it may finally help you kick the binge watching habit while still being useful for looking up productive videos.

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