For the past several years, I’ve picked one weekend day of the year to do what I call a Feeds reboot. I try to systematically go through every subscription, follow, algorithmically or chronologically generated thing I see on social platforms, streaming services and news apps and reset or at least verify how it works. I can’t recommend this enough.
Every time I do a feed refresh, I notice a huge increase in how interesting and relevant I suddenly find the internet. Will it then slowly degenerate into a morass again over the next 364 days, from which I will try to free myself in the next year? Yes! But I’m still making progress.
The point of restarting feeds is to be more conscious of the internet. It’s not the same as a privacy audit, which is also a good thing every year; Rather, it’s a way to change what you see online. Chances are, some of the content in your feeds — the creators on YouTube, the old friends on Facebook, the inevitable dance madness on your TikTok For You page — is the result of something you commented on, liked, or just happened view many months or years ago. Rebooting gives you a chance to start fresh, explain to the internet that you are no longer who you used to be, and take more control of the algorithms that run so much of your life.
My process has gotten more complicated over time and now includes three steps: the following check, the bulk archive, and a more complicated step I call Feeds Reboot Pro Max.
The Following Audit is tedious but really easy: just assess everything you track everywhere. Go through your followers list on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram, look at all the sources you follow on RSS, check all your Discord memberships, look at all the newsletters you receive, scroll through yours Podcast subscriptions and check any bands you follow on Spotify to make sure you still care. Don’t worry about adding better stuff as it happens naturally over time. Just delete everything you don’t want and make sure you only signed up for things that really matter to you.
The next step is the mass archive, which is exactly what it sounds like. Got a million emails in your inbox? Do you have a read-it-later app that’s jam-packed with things you don’t already know about? How many unseen snaps do you have in your list? There is only one way forward: get rid of everything. You can delete everything if you’re feeling messy, or just create a folder called “Archive” and put everything there. That way everything is still there when you need it… but you won’t. That is the point.
If you do just those two things, you’ll almost immediately find that your online life feels more relevant and less cluttered. The first time always takes the longest as you will have a lifetime of feed choices to look at. Every year after that it goes much faster.
The Feeds Reboot Pro Max is the next step in taking control of your algorithms. It’s about examining how different social algorithms already understand what you like and what’s important to you, and optimizing them whenever possible.
Not every app lets you do this – TikTok, for example, doesn’t give you any control over what you see at all. However, some apps offer finer control over the algorithm. I’ve included the steps for their mobile apps, although sometimes you can access the same information in a browser. (And with YouTube and Facebook in particular, it’s much easier to do some bulk actions on a laptop.) Here they are, in no particular order:
- Go to yours library tab, and then select View all above your watch history. Scroll back through everything you’ve seen, press the three dots button on the right and select Remove from watch history to take it out of your referral pool as well.
- Or go nuclear: go to settingsthen History & Privacyand just click Clear play history to erase the whole thing and start over.
- You can also click Manage all activities and instruct YouTube (and other Google services) to delete all of your activity after a specified period of time. I set mine to 18 months, but you can also choose three months or three years of data for Google to keep.
- Go to settingsthen To sueand then Ad Themes to see a list of all the categories advertisers can use to reach you. If you see one you don’t want, tap and select it See Less.
- Go to your profile, tap Following top right and tap Least interacted with Category. Unfollow anything you no longer want.
- Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings and select Your time on Facebook. blow See settings under Get more out of your timethen tap Newsfeed Settings, and add or remove people from your favorites and unfollowed lists to control how often they appear in your feed. (Unfollowing people without unfriending them remains an underappreciated tactic on Facebook.)
- Go to Settings & Privacy > SettingsLooking for Permissionsand choose Ad Settings. Choose Ad Themes at the top of the page and you can see and edit any topics that Facebook communicates to advertisers that interest you. (By the way, this list mirrors the ones on Instagram, so you only need to adjust it in one place.)
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Securitychoose Content You See, and review both the topics and interests Twitter has for you. Unfollow the ones you no longer want and subscribe to the suggested topics that sound most interesting.
- Go to Settings & Privacy > Advertising Datathen select interest categories. You’ll see everything that LinkedIn thinks is important to you, and you can opt out of everything that’s not important to you.
- Most streaming services have a feature — usually under a term like “View History” or in the menu where you manage your “Continue Watching” section — that lets you control what the service uses to inform your recommendations . I would do this more than once a year for all your ministries.
- With Netflix, for example, it only works on the web: under your profile picture, go to yours Account, Find your profile picture in Profile & Parental Controlsthen select show activity. Click on that hide icon alongside anything you’d rather not show in your viewing history or inform your recommendations going forward.
A few people I’ve spoken to over the years recommend a more scorched-earth version of a Feeds reboot. They say you should just regularly unfollow everyone everywhere and naturally rebuild all your feeds in the future. This feels overkill to me, but the purpose is the same. Modern life is driven by feeds and algorithms, and if you don’t take care of your inputs, you will eventually hate the outputs.
The real responsibility here should lie with the platforms themselves to make this process easier and more transparent – telling you more about what they know and allowing you to change it. Facebook is probably the lead here: a lot of its info is buried deep in the settings menus, but you can see and edit everything from your search history to a detailed list of everything the platform thinks is important to you.
Until then, there is the Feeds Reboot. It’s an excellent weekend project for a long weekend like this.