How to Cut Loose and Gain Some Control of Your Data

How did I get here

To be fair, it was fairly tempting to simply say that I was going to change the way I was going to use the internet and not do much. For two days now, I have not tweeted and at sometimes, the most natural reaction that I have is tweeting Gaurav Kapur that his video with Sachin Tendulkar on Breakfast with Champions is not available outside India. I wondered if I should simply email him and then came to the conclusion that keeping quiet would be the best thig for now.

And then, of course, I had to do something. So I went back to something that I had done something a year ago. I had bought a course on Udemy by Brad Hussey. I was super psyched about it and it is only now that I have started doing something about it. I am about to finish the advanced HTML part of the course and that may explain to you why I am choosing to use this Github Page as my practice-board for writing my HTML code to write this stuff down.

The truth possibly has deeper roots. I remember being a child being taught how to read the dictionary. It changed my life. Not only was I good enough to read but there was something meta about being able to read how to expand my vocabulary. I have spent many an evening sitting with an open dictionary at my knee reading new words. I feel — not only because I am lurking around on my laptop actually just reading websites and their scripts — like there is this level of reading up the website before you experience the website happen to you.

As I begin my CSS journey today, this is a good point to update my dis_connect journey as of now.

You are what you eat

This is possibly the most important part of the process. Know what data is connected to which login. Being lazy is easy, which is why it is so very convenient to go to Spotify and just login with your Facebook. It is so damn convenient to use Facebook when you are logging into your Instagram or other apps that give you that option. But here’s the catch: the more you connect, the more dependent you are on using that login for everything else as well. And this is where they get you. When was the last time you went online to a new site to actually get the news instead of clicking on something you found on Facebook or Twitter? With Google’s new News app, this takes another turn and wants to be, as someone on Android Authority points out, the be-all-end-all aggregator of news. This is strange for the same reason I think almost all supermarkets are becoming the epitome of the “sameness” of our world. LIDL in Germany is not different from LIDL in Poland. All news is not the same and one cannot treat it as the same. If I need to read about India, I prefer going to The Caravan and reading about it. Handing over the reigns of your consumption of news to Facebook and Google who are behaving more like media publishers than ever before is not only going to determine what you know about something but how you know something.

Do yourself a favor; support ethical news resources the way you would support someone who brings value to your life. There is no free lunch. My recommendations here:

Newslaundry and Indian Cultural Forum has been doing amazing work in India for some time now. Support independent journalism. Check out The Browser if you are into longform reads and want a very healthy-dose of longform from all over. I also subscribe to the London Review of Books because I am a nerd who likes tactile things.

From: The Browser

 

The Roadmap

When I started two weeks ago, I was still heavily dependent on my Facebook feed and my Twitter feed to get to know about everything else. Slowly but surely, this dependence is cutting down. Things I have changed and replaced as of now:

My Spotify and Instagram are no longer connected to my Facebook. Along with dozens of other apps. Here is how you can do it.

I deleted my tweets, as mentioned before.

I replaced Evernote with Laverna.

I use Pocketcast instead of Spotify. I would also highly recommend Podcast Addict‘s ad-free version. It is simple, really: If you don’t want ads, then pay the developers their due.

I am dabbling with 5apps right now and wondering I should move my stuff there from Dropbox. That one may take a bit of time.

Learn Markdown, it’s really easy.

There is more coming down this road. I am looking forward to it. Have a tip? Write a comment or send me an email, I am fairly easy to reach.

The Seduction of Narratives, or why I chose to delete my 19000 tweets

The strangeness of the entire thing is something I am still coming to terms with.

I deleted my Twitter. Almost.

With the recent #deletefacebook drive which has now conveniently become the #deletewhatsapp race, I started to dive deep into my own habits. Full disclosure here: I work for an internet company. Well. I used to work for them. A few days ago my boss told me that the product they were working on has gone into “maintenance” and that my services are no longer required. I am not terribly emotional as a person and I am very certain that I possibly took the entire thing better than anyone thought I would. I became aware of the entire depth of the shock: I am being let go. No. I am being fired. There was a strange moment of clarity in my head. This was the moment I saw what my job was, or what I was doing for my company as my job.

I loved doing my job for two reasons: I loved writing to people and tell them that I wanted to get them paid for their job without making them create extra content and I liked the idea that this product that we were a part of was genuinely one that I would use in order to support artists and creative film makers as well. What it also was – and this took some time for me to figure out – was looking to make “influencers” out of these creatives. This was a drive to get these influencers on-board. I have no problem with someone making a living as an influencer. I am certain many things, like streetwear and fashion, would not have Virgil Abloh or Blazendary without the role of influencers in today’s day and age. However, there is something incredibly strange about asking these people to connect their Twitter feeds, their Tumblrs, their Youtubes and Githubs for them to get paid. There is a narrative here which is then traced with these little links being put up and saying, “Here I am!” For me, this seduction of showing the perfect narrative with one line connecting my Facebook to my Twitter to my blog to my LinkedIn was a moment where I decided that I am consciously going to change the way I put up things online.

If writing things and posting it is so easy, there is a reason for it. People are drowning in information and they do not need another tweet telling about the next Kanye West tweet or the next Trump covfefe moment. The strength does not lie in my tweeting of it. You are making the medium the focus when your tweet about something gives the algorithm the knowledge that something worthwhile must be happening in that Kanye tweet or that Trump tweet.

The problem is that every time I did tweet, I was not only paying the website (not just Twitter) data and attention, but I was also building a narrative about myself. This seduction of the narrative comes from the very simple: “XYZ platform is more fun with friends; check your email to find who are already a part of it”. The moment we are all here, the moment we have all decided to write, joke, taunt, scold, scream and talk about something, we have already become a part of this. This is not just frightening because we should all be afraid of giving our data (we signed up for it the moment we use a website); what is more frightening is the absolute necessity for the profile to work was to put forward an incredibly realistic view of your life where your favorite things on one medium were also your favorite things in the other one. The frightening thing is that we are running between consuming data and presenting a mimetically representable “us” in all media or running the risk of being rather schizophrenic and scatterbrained about it by writing about HTML in one post and Paris Hilton in the other even though that is precisely what our life is like anyway.

So I, the person who was lurking around people’s Twitter profiles to use for work before getting fired, decided I am going to learn how to do things again. I will not be seduced by the joy of presenting a narrative to you or to anyone. This space – this blog that is read by nobody, perhaps – will be the place where I shall learn how to navigate the web anew.

I am learning how to code these days. I am also learning Python 3 and CSS. I might as well learn the elements of the environment I have been inhabiting anyway. In addition to that I am more and more certain that open source and paid content for consuming data on the internet is something we have to get used to. And no, open source and paying for the data you are going to consume are not two completely different things. That argument is for another day, obviously. I am going to have a dedicated page for my process of debugging my online world and use this space – this blog – as a roadmap. If you go to my Twitter right now, there are two tweets. One is a silly self-conscious one and the other one is because my good friend Michael Creighton the poet is fabulous. This is not about getting myself offline again. This is about being more sane online. I am going to be fully responsible about the way I consume the data that is then targeted at me through ads. I am going to be fully responsible about the data I am sending out to the world.

So here we are: Hello World!

 

Edit: I did add another tweet after writing this post. I suppose that does count as well. Make that three tweets.