This article is the final part of a series on free software. It comes after “Concrete ways I have benefited from free software”.
In 2020, I went down a deep rabbit hole involving free software, internet privacy, and computer security. I ditched Windows for Arch Linux. I migrated to the Google-free phone operating system endorsed by Edward Snowden and convinced my friends and family to communicate with me over Signal. In the last year, though, I’ve taken a step back and reevaluated these choices.
As part of my software rabbit hole, I left social media platforms like Instagram.1 In general, the idea was to protect against data collection by these websites, and, to a lesser extent, third parties that scrape or otherwise access the sites' data. With a year’s worth of hindsight, I can comfortably say that this angle on social media abstinence is cautious at best, and narcissistic at worst. The reality is that nobody cares. I don’t do anything secret or critical that would make it worthwhile for capable parties to inspect my social media posts or data.
I’ve also been somewhat cautious about this blog. In my previous posts, I made an effort to write in a sanitized way and avoid anything overly personal. This website was to be the solitary, controlled way that I put myself onto the internet, free from the dangers of big platforms.2 Having looked at my web server logs, though, I can be basically sure that no human reads these blog posts, aside from the people that I send them to. Most of the requests are made by bots looking for exploitable pages, or search engine bots.
If nobody’s interested in my data, then why go to all these measures for privacy? Because I fundamentally disagree with practices of these non-Free websites and software. That’s always been the reason. It’s just not compelling or friendly to tell your friends that you refuse to use some proprietary software because you “disagree” with it.
I had written a few paragraphs about “techno-criticism” or the way that social media and technology are written about in the media, but it can be said in a sentence: it’s inept and trite. We basically understand what’s wrong with these platforms and the way that the tech industry runs, but no attractive and comprehensive alternatives exists.
- I like some aspects of social media, and I understand its appeal. I like that I can get a never-ending stream of cool jpgs, recipes, and exercises. There’s got to be a better way to achieve that, though.↩
- I think a pseudonymous blog would have been the way to go. It’s old internet knowledge that you should separate your real life identity from your online one.↩