I decided to remove myself from the vise-like grip of Facebook, Instagram, and Google permanently. It’s Lent, and Catholics typically give up something for 40 days as a sign of sacrifice and to test our self-discipline, just as Jesus did when He went into the desert before His eventual death on the cross. I decided to take it one step further and do something that’s been in the back of my mind for ages.
Cybersecurity should always be a concern, especially in 2021. How many times have Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook – and by extension, Instagram – let us down?
I’ll miss seeing cute pictures of dogs in my Instagram feed, and maybe a pithy status update from a distant friend occasionally, but I realized that I’ll be fine. I followed as many people as I could on Twitter, but I’m surprised how many brands aren’t there. Something to think about.
My decision to walk away came to the forefront when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. I thought I was still too addicted to let it go. I believed I was too deep in the mire to walk away. But I also began reading articles about people who gave up social media altogether. If they could do it, then why couldn’t I?
The most recent nonsense with Australia spurred me to really examine my place as a user of these services. I’ve always been of the mindset that if you don’t pay for a service monetarily, you pay for it in other ways.
That’s why I never really got away from maintaining my domains. I wanted a space of my own that I could use without fear of reprisal from outside sources. And if people wanted to connect with me, they will always find me here. I’ve had the gpacheco.org domain for almost a decade. I don’t plan on letting it go anytime soon.
I’ve done several month-long social media blackouts over the years. Upon my return, I realized I didn’t miss a thing. Nor did anyone miss me. It’s because the people who care will make the effort to reach out. A sad reminder that we lose our Selves (capital S) when we depend on social media for a connection.
So, if anyone squats on the writeropolis username on Facebook, Instagram, or Google 30 days after this post, please understand that it’s not me. It’s an impostor.
Update, July 2021: It’s me. I’m back. But not without a fight!
Are you interested in how I did it?
I started doing research, beginning with this Wired article. I never move forward on anything without researching it first. It’s a skill that comes in handy as a writer.
I also took it one step further. I’ve stopped using Google as my main email provider, document processor, cloud and photo backup, calendaring, note-keeping, and browser.
My main email provider is Tutanota, which also handles my calendaring. I upgraded to a paid plan to access the calendar but I’m pleased with the service so far.
Update, July 2021: the service is perfectly fine. However, you can’t import a previous address’s emails; you’d need to forward them individually. Furthermore, you can’t export them. I mean, that’s the main point of Tutanota; you want to be able to send secure emails, you limit basic features that you could find from the big email service providers. But I need more flexibility. You can’t plug in IMAP emails so I moved to Mozilla Thunderbird to be able to send and receive the emails I set up through cPanel. The calendar’s a tad too sluggish for my liking. So I use a paper planner that I created from a lined notebook of mine.
Zoho Docs is my cloud backup that syncs with my desktop. Porting my docs over from Google Drive is time-consuming as hell but I know it’ll be worth it in the end. I had to upgrade to a paid plan for this as well because 5 GB doesn’t go very far. Or maybe it’s just me.
Update, July 2021: I’m not pleased with Zoho’s customer service. At all. I moved on to iCloud Drive instead. That’s much easier for me since I’m so deep in Apple’s infrastructure and it generally plays well with Windows. As far as document creation and processing, I use LibreOffice.
Amazon is my preferred photo backup since I have Prime. I know Bezos isn’t any better than Zuckerberg but I pay for the service and it comes with certain protections. If push comes to shove, I can always utilize Zoho Docs. Update, July 2021: I upgraded my iCloud to a larger plan so I also host photos here too. Options are always a good thing!
iCloud holds my contacts, and I also use it to backup my notes on my iPhone. I’ve had very, very old versions of iCloud that I actually had to upgrade in order to use them! It briefly made me realize that I’ll never get away from Apple fully either. But at least I can sync everything safely.
I went back to Mozilla Firefox after being with Chrome for many years. I will continue to maintain my Google account because I have work stuff connected to it as well as my Pokémon Go account that I will lose if I try and delete it. But I’ll continue to check emails that come through there.
But I’d prefer to use my Tutanota account if at all possible.
Anyway, I’m really excited about detoxing from the noise. There’s so much of it out in the world especially through that lens. I know there’s things I may miss – such as birthdays, as my best friend A pointed out – but maybe it’s for the best.