My relationship with the internet is changing for the better. But it took some time to get here.
For a while, my aversion to “the online” was so strong that I figured I’d need to get offline as much as possible. But these six actions seemed to help me the most:
I abstain from ad-supported and/or algorithmically manipulated social media.
I avoid websites with an endless scroll. Aka “doomscrolling.”
The only notifications I allow on my phone are calendar appointments.
I use privacy-respecting hardware and software, when they exist. When they don’t, I make do with the next best thing. (I’m looking at you, Apple!)
I minimize opinion-checking. That is, I form my own conclusions rather than caring what “the internet thinks” about a topic.
I don’t frequent places where assholes thrive.
That’s it! There was no need to move into an off-grid cabin to get my serenity back. 😀 I am still, quite often, online.
(Cabins are great though.)
My issues with the internet were: hateful content I couldn’t avoid, constant unwelcome surveillance, and dark patterns that kept drawing me back into that hateful content. That’s why those six actions worked well for me.
Your frustrations may be rooted differently than mine.
The Economics of Suffering
With a bit of distance, I can see that toxic discourse is so often about power and money. For example, Texas Congressman Ted Cruise is a troll on Twitter, because that behavior gives him and Twitter what they need. Cruise gets clout and attention. Twitter gets an audience to serve mayonnaise ads to.
And human suffering? Well, it’s merely a waste product of the process, like carbon dioxide.
Our problem isn’t a surplus of assholes. They’ve always existed and they always will. But something snuck up on us: in the new online economy, assholes have become profit centers.
And that’s unfortunate.
So I say:
Fight the system! Decline to hang out in rooms where assholes are mined for profit! Say no to the hidden economy of human suffering!
Or… don’t. I’m not your momma. 😂
A Day in the Life
How has my “online life” changed? Here’s a typical day.
In the absence of never-ending scroll, I start my day by plucking a few articles from the local newspaper and places like Hacker News. I like to read while I drink my coffee.
I usually journal. When my thoughts seem share-worthy, I’ll put them on my blog. Often, they aren’t.
I check in micro.blog a few times each day. You’re my internet peeps. This is my daily watering hole. (Hello! 👋🏼)
I check email and look things up for work, like most people do.
Sometimes, I watch a bit of YouTube before dinner. (I’m learning how to use Blender.) Sometimes I’ll peek at a specific subreddit, like Linux or Medicine. We’ll stream some TV.
And that’s it! These days, I’m blissfully unaware of what people are saying in the internet’s finest shouting parlors. My ambient existential despair is at a nadir. And when I “scroll” it rarely takes more than 15 minutes.
Why? The truth is, there isn’t a ton of “new stuff” happening on any given day.
The internet can be blessedly finite! That is, when you stop hoovering up nasty internet krill like a baleen whale.
(obligatory “fail whale” joke)
Most days, I’m left with the most basic of resources to work with. Imagination. Opinions. Books. Another day, waiting to be seized and used up.
Speaking of which, I think I’ll seize this one. 😉 Work awaits!
Have a great day.