Mario Villalobos

Information Diet and Instapaper

One of my favorite apps of all time, even before I had any device that could actually run it as an app, is Instapaper. Instapaper made reading on the web easier and more comfortable than anything that came before it, and, I would argue, since. Instapaper strips all the unnecessary cruft and clutter present in most all modern websites — shit like ads and sidebar crap and whatnot — and returns only the text, which is the most important part of any article anyways. Instapaper provides a very easy way to add content into it by providing a bookmarklet and browser extensions if you’re on a computer, and iOS extensions if you have the app installed on an iOS device. Ever since I quit RSS feeds a while back ago, I seem to be adding even more content into my Instapaper queue, and this is why: I’ve changed my Information Diet to what I think is for the better.

I use to subscribe to dozens of RSS feeds, and I’ve used more than a handful of different services to read through them all. It began with the late Google Reader, expanded to Feedly, and then when I purchased my first iPhone, Reeder. From Reeder, I experimented with Unread and Mr. Reader and a few other apps I can’t remember now, but I stuck with Reeder because it had a great Mac app, and I liked that I could have this seamless experience from one device to another. For a few years, this workflow worked for me. It was easy to read through my feeds, add stuff to Instapaper, share stuff on my social networks, and bookmark stuff in Pinboard. Before I quit, though, I was growing tired of this monotonous routine. Everything seemed the same, and that’s because it was. RSS readers provide just one theme to every article websites publish. One second you could be reading a tech article, and the next you could be reading about some massacre in some part of the world, and the next second you could be laughing at a funny video about a spider. There was no break to things, and if you followed many similar blogs (like I did), you would see the same story covered over and over and over again, all linking back to each other like some cocksucking human centipede. I grew tired of all that, so I quit, and I replaced it with, what I think (so far), better sources.

One of the first things I did was subscribe to the New Yorker. I’ve been reading through each issue I get from them in about a week’s time, which seems right since it’s a weekly magazine. From there, I subscribed to multiple email newsletters. Instead of me sifting through hundreds of shitty headlines to get to that one that I may want to read, I let humans, multiple humans that are much smarter than me and with better taste, curate the shit for me, so when I get their newsletters in my email, I’m left with some really great content with multiple links. These are the links I then save to Instapaper, which provides me a great interface for me to consume all this great content.

But, you may ask, isn’t Instapaper providing the same unified style for everything you add into just like any RSS reader? Well, inquisitive reader, yes, yes it does, but here’s the difference: Instapaper is meant for longform content. It’s meant to be a temporary storage place for you to come back to later and consume. RSS feeds keep increasing in number the longer you neglect it. Instapaper stays the same, especially if you neglect it. And I know my Instapaper queue is full of only good content, whereas RSS feeds feed me crap like 90% of the time. Not everything my favorite websites publish is good.

Another benefit quitting RSS feeds has given me is more time to read. With RSS feeds, something new is published literally every second, and with this knowledge, your body develops this tic where you need to keep checking it to see if something amazing had been published somewhere. You’re addicted to checking the news, and when there’s nothing, you take a few minutes to breath, and then you check again. With Instapaper, newsletter, and the New Yorker, I make the time to simply read. I get one newsletter a day at least, sometimes more, and I go through it, adding links I may want to read later into Instapaper, and then I’m done. I go on with whatever it was I was doing. Then, when I feel like reading, I open Instapaper, open an article, and start reading. From there, I can do the same thing I did with Reeder: bookmark stuff into Pinboard with notes, share it on Facebook or Twitter, or even text message it to someone if I’d like.

Instapaper makes my life simpler and provides me the opportunity to be a better consumer of content, and that, in the end, is what I wanted to be with RSS feeds but failed.