Is YouTube also one of your most used apps? Are screen time statistics showing a disturbing amount of time on YouTube? Then you are probably also a victim of the YouTube algorithm that holds you tight and lets your time run down the drain.

Cover Photo by Sara Kurfeß / Unsplash

You probably know this problem: You just watched an interesting video on YouTube for your research, and immediately many more pseudo-exciting videos are suggested for you. Suddenly, YouTube autoplay sends you straight into the video loop. Hours later, you come to realisation how much time just went by.

YouTube as a Social Network

To understand what YouTube is doing to us, the video platform must be viewed as a social network, because YouTube makes money in the same way: Through ads. The customers of the platform are not the users who watch the videos, but the advertisers who so often annoy us before the actual video.

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Everyone carries them around on their smartphones: The black holes of productive time. However, we are not talking about a new astronomical phenomenon, but about apps that should actually make our lives easier.

YouTube makes money by you spending as much time as possible on their platform and consuming as much advertising as possible. Accordingly, YouTube has no interest in you stopping watching videos. This is prevented by notifications, a personalized homepage, trends and similar video suggestions including autoplay.

A lot of energy has to be used to withstand all these external forces. YouTube is designed to keep us hooked.

What can you do about it?

Use "Watch Later"

Instead of falling straight into the next unrestrained YouTube marathon, you should use the "Watch Later" feature.

1) Save videos

Go through your homepage and save any videos that might be interesting for later.

2) Sort out

You can find the playlist of these videos in the left tab. Now you have all interesting videos in one place. Let the playlist rest for a while and check it again a few hours/days later. If there are videos now where you might be thinking, "What do I even want with this?", you can simply delete them from the playlist.

3) Enjoy videos

You can now watch this thinned out playlist, without having the feeling that you are wasting your time.

YouTube Time Watched

In order to be able to better estimate your YouTube usage, you can use the statistics of Time Watched. You can find this in the YouTube app under Account > Time Watched.

YouTube time watched statistics

There you can not only see your weekly time spent on Youtube, but also make settings to remind yourself regularly to take breaks.

Limit Screen Time

If nothing helps, you can also limit your screen time using your smartphone. This works very well on the iPhone thanks to the same called feature. You can add YouTube to the restricted apps under Settings > Screen Time > App Limits.

Adding app time limit to YouTube on iPhone

Now, your smartphone will also notify you as soon as the set time is used up.

If you want to be particularly consistent with yourself (or have to - to achieve any effect) you can also set up a password, which you have to enter when you receive the notification from your phone in order to continue using the app. To do this, go to Settings > Screen Time > Use Screen Time Passcode and create a pin.

Include a little twist here: Let a friend set the pin, which of course he won't tell you. This means you are completely protected from random hours long YouTube sessions.