Lately, every time someone shows me a YouTube video on their computer or phone, I find myself freaking out just a little. The ads, the list of recommended videos, the endless comments… there’s just so much going on on the screen, and I find myself easily distracted and maybe a bit overwhelmed.
In contrast, if you watch a YouTube video on my laptop, you’ll find it to be a much different experience. What you will see is the video and its description, and basically nothing else. If you want to see the comments or the recommended videos, you can scroll to see a “Show More” button. But, other than that, you just get the video you came to see.
I have really been appreciating this setup for a couple years now. I have written before about how I think we should avoid using news feeds from Attention Extraction dependent business models. This setup has allowed me to watch YouTube videos without exposing myself to the more addictive elements of YouTube’s attention extracting practices, which I’ve found to be really valuable. Some of the content on YouTube is amazing, but getting sucked into a YouTube binge-watch-vortex has wasted too many hours of my life. In combatting that, this new set up has helped me immensely.
The tool that has allowed me to achieve this on my computer has been the Web Browser Plugin Improve YouTube! (Available here if you’re using a Chromium-based browser (Brave, Chrome, etc.), or here if you’re using Firefox).
Below I share the settings that I use on Improve YouTube! and why I’ve selected them.
After you’ve installed the plugin, you should be able to find it along with all your other plugins. Usually that’s on the top right of your browser screen. When you click on the Improve YouTube! icon, you should see 9 options come up: General, Appearance, Themes, Player, Playlist, Channel, Shortcuts, Blacklist, and Analyzer. Each of these have a long list of settings within that can change the way you use YouTube. Below are the settings in each category that I’ve found most fruitful.
Under General, the main thing I change is the YouTube Home Page setting, which I set to Watch Later. This makes it so when I open YouTube, I’m not instantly exposed to all the videos YouTube’s algorithm thinks will suck me in. Instead, I see my “Watch Later” list. So, if I’ve saved any videos I want to watch, I’ll be reminded of them. Otherwise, I’ll see a blank screen.
Usually, if I’m opening YouTube, it’s because I want to watch something specific. This helps me actually do that, instead of getting distracted by the Home Page recommendations.
The appearance section has several subsections, based on the elements of the video watching page. Here’s my settings for those subsections:
My main setting here is switching Position to Hover. This makes it so the search bar, logo, and everything in the header is invisible unless you “hover” over the area it would normally be. I like this because it keeps the viewing area clean. No buttons and such to clutter the video I want to watch.
I also set the Improve Logo setting to on, just because I think it looks good. 😅
Here, I set two settings. First I set the Player size setting to Fit To Window. This makes it so whatever video I’m watching will fill up the window. I also set the Forced Theater Mode to on. As far as I can tell, if the Player size is set, this is redundant, but I have it set anyway as I prefer my video taking up as much of the screen as it can.
This is one of the most important settings for me. Under Related Videos I chose Collapsed.
This does one big thing for me: It hides the Recommended Videos by default, but lets me open them if I want to see them.
Sometimes the recommended videos can be helpful, but most of the time, I’ve found them distracting. This setting allows me to see them when I want, and hide them the rest of the time.
Similar to above, under the Comments setting here, I chose collapsed. Rarely does the comment section provide any net positive to my life, so I want it hidden by default. Sometimes I’m curious what people have to say, though, so the option of leaving it available for when I chose to see it is nice.
Here, I simply use the Black theme. It’s clean. It’s a good night-mode theme. It’s how I’m now used to seeing YouTube.
Finally, the last major setting I change is Ads. Here, I simply chose the Block All setting. There are other settings there, for if you want to be able to make sure the creators you’re subscribed to have ads shown on their videos. Personally, though, I opt to simply Block All.
I used to find YouTube super addicting. Now (on my laptop, at least) I feel that I have a really healthy relationship with it. If, like me, you want to come to a healthier place with web services you use like YouTube, and if you don’t have any tools in place to help you do that, I recommend giving Improve YouTube! a spin! I’ve found it to be really helpful, maybe you will to.