How I Use RSS To “Rewild” My Attention

RSS brings me weirder and deeper stuff than I encounter on social media

Clive Thompson
8 min readFeb 7


A forest, with rays of sunlight in behind the trees, radiating towards the viewer, through a slight mist in the air
Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

I’ve written a bunch about “rewilding your attention” — or, spending more time reading and viewing culture that isn’t going viral on social-media feeds.

Algorithmically-sorted feeds are good for some things. They let you know what are the big, popular conversations of the day, which is valuable! But if you stare at ’em too much, it’s intellectual monocropping. All you wind up knowing (and thinking about) are the same things everyone else knows and is thinking about.

So it’s also important to rewild your mind — to cultivate your own quirky, overgrown, weedy garden of culture.

Cool. But: How do you find such material?

I’ve written a few pieces suggesting different techniques, which you can read here. But today I wanted to drill down into the most important way I diversify the material I read, which is …

… using an “RSS reader”.

A screenshot of Feedly, with the screen divided into a thin vertical pane on the far left, which lists dozens of sites, and the main wide pain in the middle-to-right, showing posts from the technology site The Verge

An RSS reader is at heart pretty simple: It’s a piece of software that lets you “follow” blogs and web sites. Whenever those blogs and sites update, your RSS reader shows you the new headlines (and maybe the first few paragraphs, if you want) in a nice clean list. Follow lots of sites, and your RSS reader becomes a personalized feed of the Internet you’ve chosen to pay attention to.

Generally, RSS readers don’t rely too much on algorithms for ranking posts on virality. They mostly just show you stuff in reverse chronological order.

This makes them much more labor intensive than social media. If you wind up following a few dozen sites (or around 400 , as I do), your RSS reader becomes a truly massive list of daily posts. Figuring out how best to organize that torrent of prose — and how to interact with it — is thus the art of using RSS.

Here’s how I tame the chaos, and Get The Most Out Of RSS:

1) Pick your RSS reader. I use “Feedly”



Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”.