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Comparing Apps and Media with the Time to Aftertaste Metric

To celebrate the end of finals my freshman year of college, I binged the TV series Master of None. I must not have paced it well, because when I finished, I felt terrible. My eyes hurt from staring at the screen, and my body ached from laying in bed all day.

Sure, I enjoyed the show. But ultimately, binging on the show left a bad taste in my mouth.

Introducing TTA (Time to Aftertaste)

After a long TV session, the aftertaste I’m describing is probably the most pronounced. But this aftertaste follows other media too.

If you’ve ever spent an evening browsing the Internet for too long, you might know what I mean.

At first, the articles are interesting, and informative. After an hour though, you might have been overloaded with information. You might find yourself far from your research topic, now on Buzzfeed or on Youtube.

You end your session of Internet browsing with an aftertaste. Your brain is drained.

Time to Aftertaste is the time it takes for your brain to reach aftertaste. If it took an hour of browsing to reach aftertaste, the TTA is 1 hour.

Straightforward.

Some Notes

I find it hard to pinpoint what causes aftertaste. I know there are factors. For instance, the TTA for Youtube on mobile, is less than the TTA for Youtube on desktop.

Still, I can’t pin down a root cause, or a definition. But like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I know it when I see it.

Analysis

Facebook

Let’s start with media with the lowest TTA. For one, the Facebook News Feed gives me an aftertaste very quickly.

Here are some reasons. First, the Facebook News feed gives you lots of short form content. Your brain has to jump between different topics quickly. Second, News Feed gives you a lot of links to click on, which might lead to more links to click on. This browsing is often overwhelming to your brain, especially because you don’t know where the link will go or show you. This causes distress.

This is if you’re just scrolling through News Feed for 15+ minutes. For me, TTA shortens if I’m clicking through notifications, because you have to switch pages all the time. This context switching is taxing on my brain.

A reason I don’t enjoy my News Feed is because I don’t have good content on there. If I used Facebook more, the News Feed algorithm would be able to cater to me. In the meanwhile, I complain about this aftertaste.

Perhaps low quality content is what causes aftertaste. I notice it takes a lot longer for me to reach aftertaste when I’m scrolling the UCSD memes page. That page is funny.

Snapchat Stories from what I recall doesn’t give you too much of an aftertaste, because you consume so little at a time. However, I notice that Snapchat gives you FOMO instead. Perhaps social apps should use a time to FOMO metric. I digress.

Quora, Medium,

While I’ve raved about Quora in the past, my feed now generally has less quality content. This, and it has shorter content. I think this contributes to a quicker aftertaste.

Medium is surprisingly able to delay aftertaste for a while, even if I’m on my phone. Perhaps because I used it frequently, but the feed provides good articles. The design doesn’t require me to skim text, which I think contributes to aftertaste, but rather just shows me headlines, unlike Quora which shows some body text.

And, all the links lead to long form content, which I think is important in terms of aftertaste. If you have to jump between articles often, you will develop aftertaste quicker.

Books

I can develop aftertaste on my Kindle if I swap between books quickly. But if I’m reading quality writing, I can develop little aftertaste for 200 pages. However, I have read shitty writing in the form of a book. 101 Essays, I’m looking at you. This gave me an aftertaste. They were pretty much blog posts in book format.

Sorry

Okay, in hindsight, I realize my thoughts on aftertaste were not well formed. I’m not sure if I articulated well what I meant, and I didn’t analyze all the platforms I wanted. I also did not go into why I deleted all the apps on my phone. I also did not go into my general feelings on social media apps.

I will hit all those in the future, but I hope I gave you readers something to think about! What apps do you have that develop an aftertaste?

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