Content Consumption Based on Your Mood
How your perception of content depends on your mood and advice on how to match your mood with the right content.
As I was swiftly scrolling through my inbox, I saw an article about emotions at work by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy. The preview said it could help me deal with emotional rollercoasters. When I followed the link to read more, my interest faded, and I concluded it wasn’t helpful. The article landed in my inbox between other “work stuff”. Before opening it, I read a couple of messages about ongoing projects. My mind was occupied with deadlines, content for decision making and other work details. I was in the work mood, not in the learning or reflective mood. To benefit from that article, I’d have to sit down and think about questions in it, reflect on work situations with colleagues, and switch my focus away from work responsibilities. My mood wasn’t right, so the content didn’t seem right too.
You may find yourself in completely different moods, such as:
Funny: you crave distractions and entertainment.
Curious: you desire to explore some unfamiliar or even odd topic.
Work: you’re ready to tackle all your work and cross things off the to-do list.
Ambitious: you feel like the sky is a limit and looking for your next venture.
Creative: you’re in a creative flow without fear of judgment or critique.
Reflective: you feel overwhelmed and need to reflect on what’s happening around you.
IMPORTANT: not every mood requires content! If you’re in a creative flow or need to reflect - you should limit external world triggers. Information consumption will overwhelm you; thus, you won’t focus on reflection or creativity. I found that content consumption is beneficial for me when I exhausted my focus and need new information to do my work, make a decision or get distracted.
Aggregated information feed
Assuming you’re in the mood to consume some new content, let’s dive into the nuances of how our perception depends on the mood and how we can find the right content for the mood.
Good content for you, like an article, book, podcast or video, will depend on the mood you’re in. Unless you have a specific piece of content in mind, it comes down to luck to find one. And this is increasingly hard with a modern concept of an aggregated information feed because all types of content are mixed. As you’re scrolling through your Instagram, Twitter or elsewhere, you see funny pet videos, professional industry updates, educations talks and a variety of all the things you liked or followed in the past. I am not supportive of the A.I. curated feed: I am more upset if I don’t see the content I could see cause A.I. will hide it from me rather than seeing useful for me content. I like to curate the feed myself.
Even if you see the highest quality content, you may not appreciate it without a proper mood. A solution is in the content feed curated for your mood, and I’d argue this can be done in three steps:
Identify common moods and preferences.
Identify proper content for a mood.
Organize consumption around preferences.
For the first step, I identified four daily content moods:
Work: a mood to learn about the professional industry or follow the recent news.
Education: a mood when I feel like I want to expand my worldview.
Hobbies: a mood for hobbies (duh).
Chill: a mood for guilty pleasures and fun distractions.
Identify proper content for a mood
With work, education, interests, and relaxation moods defined, here are my examples of content for each state of mind.
News: this list includes transactional information and to stay on top but not overwhelmed with what’s happening in the world. It’s helpful to find news outlets on a spectrum of opinions and publications that offer some analysis. For instance, The Economist will cover recent events in the world with some expert analysis on it.
Work: this list helps stay on top of the professional industry (tech and product management in my case). It can include updates from companies that build exciting products, getting news from experienced PMs, looking at articles in the industry.
Curiosity: a list focus on adding some fresh (or even odd) ideas to a feed. It should help you expand your perspective or even question the status quo. One somewhat cliche but still great source is TED talks.
Hobbies: a list of tweets, articles or publications from creators, companies or anything else related to our guilty pleasures.
Chill: funny videos, aesthetically pleasing photos, etc.
Inbox: that’s a catch-all place for the rest of the content or simply a list of things you want to get updates on occasionally.
Organize consumption around preferences
The closest solution I’ve discovered for content curation is the Twitter list. Lists allow you to combine multiple resources and review them chronologically as updates happen. Another benefit of Twitter is that most brands, companies or individuals post updates there, while they may not be active on other social media platforms or have a newsletter.
Another more fundamental and long-lived form of technology is an RSS feed. A service called Feedly, for example, has been around for a long time. Within Feedly, you’ll be able to curate multiple feeds that can correspond to your mood. It also offers tracking of google keywords, subscription to newsletters, following of Reddit posts, etc. It’s more sophisticated compared to Twitter, yet most of this functionality comes at a 9-12$/month.
As far as I am concerned, Twitter solves my problem of organizing all the content I want to see in one place. It also offers social interactions in the form of comments and replies - which can help me expand my interests. Still, I can see how Feedly could be helpful for people who are actively publishing, researching or simply tracking online activity around specific topics. If you're starting with content curation, I'd recommend going with a more straightforward solution like Twitter.
By curating your feed around your typical moods, you’re likely to discover content at the right time with fewer distractions. Curation decreases the chances of missing an interesting story cause you aren't in the right mood.
Observe yourself to identify common moods you have (daily, weekly, monthly).
Reflect on what content you find most interesting for a specific mood.
Create a separate content feed for each mood.
Experiment and add new content.
With chronological feeds, you can go back and review what content you missed without fear of an algorithm hiding something from you. This way, you’re in control to decide when you want to consume content.
Alternative look on content curation
Before publishing this article, I sent it to my friend Alexander Vilinskyy. His reply was like a short article with an alternative look on content curation. Earlier in the article, I criticized A.I.-generated feeds and proposed a manual curation. The manual approach is an unpopular decision for two reasons: 1) Most people don’t like to curate things on their own, 2) A.I. feeds have recommendation engines embedded into them which help with content discovery. Alexander also pointed out that using the same list may soon bore you. Instead, he likes to combine specific topics with A.I. recommendations for each service. Here is his alternative way of content curation.
He has multiple accounts on TikTok, Instagram and Reddit, which are focused on analogies of mood from this article:
The key benefit of this approach - it creates a dedicated space for content without giving up on the recommendation engine. The engine learns your preferences for a specific topic and separates it from the rest of the moods/preferences. Your likes, following, or any other activity stays encapsulated in one account - the engine doesn't need to balance weights between your fun and work moods.
I like this idea because you end up with clear boundaries between the content - this addresses my concern about aggregated feeds. Separate accounts add friction to switch between different moods. Yet, the friction here can help limit mindless scrolling. The manual work shifts from curating a feed to managing logins between accounts or extra work to create a new account for a new interest. But I hypothesize account switching requires less effort than list curation on Twitter.
Alexander and I both agree that the problem of mixed content exists, but we solved it differently. Overall, the bright future focuses on user mood and context when serving content instead of the highest bid of an advertiser or another trending video. Alexander writes a newsletter about product, design and the future.
The right book at the right time
When I took a vacation, and none of the work matters were on my mind, I felt refreshed and curious to learn something new. I found the book “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy at the bookshop. I read most of it in a single day. I felt like the book matched my mood; thus, I found it way more helpful than when I was scrolling my inbox before work.
What moods do you have? What’s the right content for it?