romainaubert |||

A roadmap to reclaiming my attention, relationships, intimacy and privacy

I’ve always felt I spend too much time on my smartphone and social media.” I’ve also noticed that some applications have become the architecture of my personal and professional life, my relationships, my intimacy; I don’t like this dependence.

I feel uneasy when commercial applications interfere between me and my life.

I always have these quotes in mind:

If you don’t control software, software control you”1

and:

software is eating the world.”2

– I want us to live with software we control.

I’ve decided to:

  • delete accounts of applications that claim my attention, behavioural and personal data and metadata3, and other proprietary applications
  • switch to free/libre and open-source softwares (FLOSS)
  • switch to a dumb phone (i.e. ditch my smartphone and other smart” devices)
  • host my data and website locally

Summary

To-do

I want to stop using applications and devices that claim my attention, behavioural and personal data and metadata. I show my work-in-progress transition through two sections:

  • applications (or softwares)
  • device (or hardware)

Delete applications

My aim is to delete proprietary platform’s accounts and replace applications with free/libre and open-source softwares (or whatever choice there is when I can’t find a FOSS that suits my preference e.g. Duckduckgo.) You can see where I am at in the table below since I started in 2017. It takes time.

application replace with replaced? account deleted on*
Facebook blog, newsletter, address book, and RSS reader 2018-03
Whatsapp (Facebook Inc.) Signal and Element (desktop only)
LinkedIn blog, newsletter, address book, and RSS reader
Twitter blog, newsletter, address book, and RSS reader
Amazon libraries in my neighborhood
Chrome Tor, Firefox
Google Search Duckduckgo
Google Map Apple Map at first, now OpenStreetMap and a paper map when I am on the street; I also ask people around
Gmail ProtonMail and a forwarding email service
Google Calendar Thunderbird and a weekly planner on a piece of paper
Google Drive I only have one device, my laptop. I stopped using a smartphone so I no longer need to sync” devices. You might want to try NextCloud otherwise.
Google Doc LibreOffice Writer (locally), Etherpad (online)
Google Spreadsheet LibreOffice Calc (locally), EtherCal (online)
Google Slide LibreOffice Impress (locally)
Google Alerts No replacement, any suggestion? Email me
YouTube PeerTube, youtube-dl
Spotify a folder, mp3 files and VLC 2020-11
Netflix Use the time I use to spent on Netflix to read
Quora blog

*Accounts are surprisingly difficult to delete! Even once I stopped using them.

On my Mac

Moving from proprietary applications to Free and Libre Open Source applications. The aim is to move to Linux at some point.

application replace with replaced? app deleted on
Page LibreOffice Writer 2020-05 2020-12
Number LibreOffice Calc 2020-05 2020-12
Keynote LibreOffice Impress 2020-05 2020-12
Notes Joplin 2020-05
Mail, Cal Thunderbird 2020-05
Safari Firefox
Tor
2015
2020
Facetime Signal Messenger, Jitsi
iMessage Signal Messenger
Matrix/Element
2016
2019
Contact Thunderbird
Books Calibre 2020-12
Dictionary any suggestion? Email me
Screen capture Kap
Map OpenStreetMap
Quicktime VLC
Photos a folder
Preview any suggestion? Email me
Finder Terminal 2020-12 NA
Time Machine
Authy any suggestion? Email me
Dashlane KeePassXC

Blog and newsletter

You are on it. This website use to be a Medium account. I am using Blot at the moment, which I really like, but I am thinking of self-hosting. That’s work in progress.

application replace with replaced? account deleted on
Medium a domain name, Blot, git, MacDown
Substack (for my newsletter) I don’t know yet
Blot (and AWS) hosting with YunoHost on a Virtual Private Server

Ditch smart” devices

I want to ditch smart” devices and replace them with dumb” devices. Smart” is a euphemism. Here is the plain-word explanation of smart device”:

a device that substitutes for your cognitive resources while collecting data and metadata about your behaviour.

device replace with replaced? ditched?
smartphone an old dumb phone
a $20 analog camera
a $25 mp3 player
a $10 alarm clock
a pen & note-book
a paper map
a $15 quartz watch
a paperback book or a magazine
2020-07
Kindle e-reader built with Open Book printed circuit board (PCB)

Journal

This is a journal of my progress:

  • 2021-01
    • deleted all my articles on Medium and deprecated my account
  • 2020-12
    • replaced Books (on Mac) with Calibre to manage my ebook library. Next step is to get an e-reader built on Open Book printed circuit board (PCB).
  • 2020-11
    • stopped using Spotify. I started to make mp3 playlists again. That’s fun.
    • started to send printed pictures via post to my friends instead of dropping digital pictures via Signal.
  • 2020-10
    • stopped carrying my mobile phone by default when I leave my house.
  • 2020-09
    • resumed using a mp3 player so I don’t have to carry my smartphone around - just to listen to music. Plus, Spotify did not work very well offline. It seems that it needs to connect to the internet at least once when turned on before it can be used in offline mode.
    • started using an RSS reader.4
  • 2020-08
    • started to send more (postal) letters to my friends. What will be left from our relationships if all interactions and memories are digitised?
    • decided to send less instant messages to my friends. I call instead. I feel I missed the subtlety of our relationships via instant messages. Also, instant messages encourage multitasking (which I try to avoid) whereas calling requires full attention and focus.
  • 2020-07
    • switched back to a dumb phone as my main phone. I did not want that switch to be an excuse to consume, i.e. buy a new phone. There are a few cool new dumb phones out there, and their value proposition is to help people detox/recover from their smartphone. I contemplated buying one (they are very cool!) but in the end reason won and I pulled my old good dumb phone from the drawer. T9 is great by the way.
    • resumed using an analog camera.
  • 2020-05
    • replaced Pages, Number, Keynote, Notes, Mail, iCal, Screen capture, Dashlane with LibreOffice, Joplin, Thunderbird, Kap, KeePassXC.
  • 2019-07
    • resumed using a pocket-size notebook and a pen to take notes on-the-go; so that I don’t have to dive into my smartphone to make a note. Plus, paper and pen is best for creativity and thinking.5
  • 2018-07
    • deleted email application from my smartphone
  • 2018-03
    • deleted my Facebook account.
  • 2017-08
  • 2017-05
    • started to check Facebook once a day on desktop browser.
  • 2017-04
    • deleted applications that use infinite scroll from my smartphone (e.g. Twitter, and news apps.)
  • 2017-04
    • deleted social media apps from my smartphone (i.e. Facebook and Twitter.)
  • 2016
    • started to use Signal

Hey, I’m writing a book to explain how platforms and applications get away with what they promise they will do (and don’t do); and what impact your usage has on your well-being. You can sign up here to get an email when the book is out.


  1. Richard Stallman↩︎

  2. Marc Andreessen, partner a16z, a venture capital fund↩︎

  3. I will write more about this later; subscribe by email or RSS↩︎

  4. https://romainaubert.com/how-to-use-rss-feed↩︎

  5. Pam A. Mueller, Daniel M. Oppenheimer (2014), The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking, aps, Vol 25, Issue 6; Faria Sanaa, Tina Weston, Nicholas J.Cepeda (2013), Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers, Computers & Education Volume 62, pages 24-31; Anne Mangen, Liss Gøril Anda, Gunn H. Oxborough, Kolbjørn Kallesten Brønnick (2015), Handwriting versus Keyboard Writing: Effect on Word Recall, Journal of Writing Research, 7(2):227-247↩︎

  6. https://romainaubert.com/replacing-facebook-with-newsletter↩︎

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