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Moving off monopolist internet

As Tom Slee puts it in No One Makes You Shop At Walmart, (and I think either Zephyr Teachout or David Dayen, or both, explain in their recent books), it’s not true that your individual interactions with monopolists matter. As a consumer, staying away from monopolists is a losing strategy. The point is democratic policymaking, not impotent boycotts. There’s a reason they’re monopolists, after all.

That said, I’m trying to slowly wean myself off the predatory internet.

Here’s my short-term plan:

  1. Set up my own domain (sahar.io)
  2. Set up many email addresses, each for a different way of using email. For instance: feed@sahar.io for reading newsletters, shopping@ for commerce, hello@ for correspondence, etc
  3. Set up an old-school blog (hello!)
  4. Every time I write something particularly good on FB, rewrite it slightly nicer on the blog
  5. I’ve carved out some writing explicitly for a substack: yenta!
  6. So far, my email addresses auto-forward to gmail
  7. One of these days, I’ll set up a NAS to hold all my files instead of dropbox.

Longer-term:

  • Email: After a few years, I think I’ll be able to have straightened out these tangled threads enough to take more decisive action in sunsetting or sharply limiting my old email accounts. Before then, I hope to wean off the gmail UX for a separate inbox.
  • Files: Fingers crossed, the NAS will solve all my problems.
  • Writing: I’ve already started yenta, and will likely spin up another newsletter focused on technology & politics. (Name tbd — I’m currently leaning towards “Civil Integrity”.) I’ll opportunistically cross-post some juicy bits from the newsletter to this blog, but presumably be three different spaces.
  • Social networks: If all goes well, my friends will start getting used to corresponding via blog posts, comments, and email. I doubt that’ll happen. Instead, I’m slowly weaning myself towards Twitter + one other social network to be chosen. Clubhouse? I’ll hold my fire and try to have a lively Signal presence instead.

There are also ways that surveillance and monopolist technologies entwine themselves in your life, even when you’re not actively using them. Here’s my plan:

  • Web browsing: Firefox, firefox container tabs, firefox facebook container(!!), u-block origin, and privacy badger.
  • Reading online things: Firefox better web with Scroll. Email newsletters. Nuzzel.
  • Infra: Soon I’ll get a VPN (mozilla-branded?). I hear pi-holes are good? Looking for suggestions.
  • Maps: Apple maps for now. Don’t sign into google maps.
  • Tracking: Facebook only via a web browser. View it via safari on the iphone.
  • Chat / Video: Signal and Jitsi for now. Soon I’ll use a friend’s self-hosted Jitsi instead.

So that’s the plan right now. In short — set up a few things now, mostly dual-tracked. Patiently give myself years to mature into them, and as my use of them deepens (and others follow along) start leaning on them more heavily.

I’d ask what your plan is, and I am interested. But, in the end, the real change has to come from public policy. Don’t get too seduced by individualistic theories of social change.

PS – Don’t forget that I do (and you can) use A Few Weird Tricks to make your Twitter and Facebook experience much more pleasant. (You can even get rid of ads without an ad blocker!).

2 replies on “Moving off monopolist internet”

I’m on board with/have been doing a lot of this, but my biggest struggle is the Facebook app one: using Facebook in Safari on iOS then still allows Facebook in to my web browsing. So I’ve opted for the native app, with as restricted permissions as possible…though it is now getting thirsty and constantly trying to tell me via in app alert why I should give it notification permissions.

Hi Alan, thanks for this.

Since you brought this up, I’ve segregated my browsers so that one (Firefox) is only for Facebook, and the other (Safari) is for everything else that needs persistent login data. (I’ve always used firefox focus for off-the-cuff searching and browsing)

Would that not work? Am I missing something?

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