A roadmap to reclaiming my attention, time, and intimacy
Last edited in March 2021
I’ve always felt I spent too much time on my smartphone and “social media.” I’ve also noticed that some applications had become the “architecture” of my everyday life; I relied on them to keep in touch with friends and family. I never liked that. That makes me feel uneasy.
When I think fo what software to use, I always have these quotes in mind:
“If you don’t control software, software control you”1
“software is eating the world.”2
So - I’ve started to:
- delete accounts I have on proprietary platforms;
- switch to free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS), software we control, commons;
- ditch my smartphone and switch to a dumb phone
- ditch my Kindle and make a Libre e-reader
- Delete accounts on proprietary platforms
- On my Mac
- Blog, websites and newsletter
- Ditch “smart” devices
- Journal of my progress
Delete accounts on proprietary platforms
I want to delete accounts on proprietary platforms and replace them with free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS.)
Also: note that free/libre and open-source software tend to be held by non-profits, as opposed to proprietary software that are owned by commercial entities. I am writing this because I believe that our “digital selves” should not belong to private companies, that is the market economy.
Software we use personally, and also in our public institutions, should be held in commons - not privately.
“The digital commons are a form of commons involving the distribution and communal ownership of informational resources and technology.”3
Also, a solution I’ve found to be effective: do not replace software you want to quit - just stop using them. See example below: Facebook, Google Drive, smartphone, etc.
You can see where I am at in the table below. I started in 2017. It takes time.
|software||deprecated or deleted*||replace with||license||organization|
|deleted on 2018-03||I call people, write postcards, letters||-||-|
|deprecated in 2020||Signal
I don’t know
|deprecated||twtxt||MIT License||License held by the developer|
|Amazon||deprecated||bookstores in my neighborhood4
|Google Search||deprecated in 2016||Duckduckgo||proprietary||commercial|
|Gmail||deprecated in 2017||ProtonMail||MIT License & GNU GPLv3||commercial|
|Google Calendar||deprecated in 2017||a calendar notebook
and Thunderbird to deall with invites I receive
|Google Drive||deprecated in 2019||I no longer need a cloud cause I have only one device; no need to sync||-||-|
|Google Doc||deprecated in 2019||LibreOffice Writer||-||-|
|Google Sheet||deprecated in 2019||LibreOffice Calc||-||-|
|Google Slide||deprecated in 2019||I don’t use slides these days||-||-|
|Google Alerts||deprecated in 2019||I stopped checking the news. I already had too much information to deal with||-||-|
|YouTube||deprecated in 2020||-||-||-|
|Spotify||deleted on 2020-11||mp3
|Netflix||deleted in 2020||no replacement,
I do more reading, and I sleep earlier
|Quora||deleted in 2020||-||-||-|
*Accounts are surprisingly difficult to delete! Even once I stopped using them.
Alternatives to other Google products.
As you can see above, I still use a few proprietary products ran by commercial entities. The plan is to switch to Free/libre software ran by non-profit. I believe our “digital lives/selves” should not belong to commercial entities.
On my Mac
Same as above: switching to free/libre and open source software from proprietary software. The aim is to move to Ubuntu at some point.
|software||deprecated or deleted||replace with||license||organization|
|Joplin||MIT License||License held by the developer, Laurent Cozic|
Apache License 2.0
|Books||deleted||Calibre||GNU GPLv3||License held by the developer, Kovid Goyal|
|Screen capture||deprecated||Kap||MIT License||commercial|
|Map||deprecated||OpenStreetMap||Open Database License (ODbL)||non-profit|
|Dashlane||deprecated||KeePassXC||GPL||License held by the developers|
Blog, websites and newsletter
This blog use to be a Medium account. Now I use Blot which I really like.
I still have a couple of websites I host using GitHub and Netlify. I would like to find non-commercial alternatives for GitHub and Netlify.
|software||deprecated or deleted||replace with||license||organization|
License held by Junio Hamano & others
License held by Tzu-ping Chung
|Substack||deprecated||I don’t know yet|
|GitHub||I don’t know yet|
|Netlify||I don’t know yet|
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”:
I define a “smart device” as a device that substitutes for your cognitive resources while collecting personal data.
|smartphone||2020-07||an old dumb phone
an 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
|Kindle||2020||a homemade e-reader built w/ Open Book PCB||MIT License||License held by the maker|
This is a journal of my progress:
- Three months in: Spotify was an easy ditch. I realize three playlists and some podcasts on my mp3 player do the job now; there is no need to carry millions of tracks. Also, that is $119 per year saved.
- 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).
- 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.
- stopped carrying my mobile phone by default when I leave my house.
- 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.5
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.6
- deleted email application from my smartphone
- started to check Facebook once a day on desktop browser.
- deleted applications that use infinite scroll from my smartphone (e.g. Twitter, and news apps.)
- deleted social media apps from my smartphone (i.e. Facebook and Twitter.)
- started to use Signal
Hey, I’m writing a book to explain the nature of our relation with “tech platforms” (e.g. Facebook, Google), and the impact our usage of platforms has on our autonomy, individuality, desire, and intimacy. You can sign up here to get an email when the book is out.
Marc Andreessen, partner a16z, a venture capital fund↩︎
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↩︎