The curse of the Sisyphean read-later list

Joan Westenberg
3 min readNov 29, 2023

Let’s talk about our digital ‘save for later’ pile. That growing list of articles, videos, and podcasts we swear we’ll get to eventually. It’s like we’re building our own little museum of cool stuff we’ll explore ‘one day.’

When are you going to read that long article about the Byzantine Empire or listen to that lengthy podcast on climate politics? How many articles from The Atlantic, Substack and Threads have you hopefully squirrelled away? If you’re like me, these things are just sitting there, untouched.

They’re in Instapaper. Pocket. Matter. Safari’s reading list. Flipboard. They’re bloody everywhere.

Here’s the funny thing: In trying to learn everything, we learn very little. We stuff ourselves with information but don’t digest it. It’s a sign of our times — we want to know more but feel empty.

So why do we keep adding to this pile?

At its core, the ‘save for later’ list is a manifestation of our digital era’s paradox of choice. With the internet offering an endless buffet of information, we find ourselves overwhelmed by options. This abundance leads to what psychologist Barry Schwartz describes as the paradox of choice, where too many options can lead to decision paralysis and dissatisfaction. Our lists become a way to manage this overload, a method to bookmark…