interim tech report

Over the past year I’ve been making some significant changes to certain elements of my technological life — significant, but incremental and slow. I have tried not to change too many things at once, because when I’ve tried that in the past it has never worked out for me. Here’s a summary of my progress:

  • I deleted my Instagram account. (I have not had a Facebook account since 2007.)
  • I deactivated my Twitter account. I haven’t yet deleted it — I still wonder whether I might find a use for it some day. But I am not on Twitter and do not miss it, so deletion remains a possibility.
  • I have been using a Micro.blog account for short posts. The community there is almost wholly pleasant, but I have had just enough tense exchanges to make me wary. I feel that all of us have learned our social-media habits from Twitter and Facebook and it may take us a little time to become fully decent again.
  • I started a newsletter
  • I have almost completely eliminated reading daily news, which, for me, has primarily meant deleting news sites from my RSS reader.
  • I have shifted instead to reading more weekly and monthly magazines, especially in print, but sometimes on the Kindle. My new favorite magazine is The Economist — at which I looked askance for many years because I thought it a key mouthpiece of the neoliberal order, which it kinda is, but overall it’s a great magazine. I begin by reading the summary of the week’s news, and then turn with particular interest to reports from parts of the world that I wouldn’t ordinarily think about. It does a lot to put American kerfuffles into meaningful context.
  • I am moving more and more of my data out of the cloud, and am moving back towards regular backups to hard drives, supplemented by key files stored in Apple’s iCloud. I have pared back my use of Google Docs and Dropbox to the bare nub, and may well delete my Dropbox account altogether in the coming months.
  • I have moved all my online calendars from Google to iCloud, have moved my personal email from Gmail back to Fastmail — despite some problems I had with Fastmail last year, I am giving them another chance — and have deleted Google Maps from all my devices. (That last one is tough, because in my experience Apple Maps continues to be significantly inferior.) I have also moved to DuckDuckGo as my default, and since the move only, search engine. You can see where this is headed. Within a year I would like to have my Google account deleted.

Other than the Great De-Googling, a consummation devoutly to be wished, what do I hope to accomplish in the next year?

I want to go back to the analog system of task management that I had been using for a couple of years previous to this one. I am happiest and most focused when I track my responsibilities in a notebook, but last year I found myself, during a period of particular stress, nearly dropping a few balls, and that led me back to my favorite digital task manager, Things. Things is a beautiful and exceptionally well-designed app — those are two different things, by the way: some apps are beautiful without being well-designed, and vice versa — but I don’t want to get too dependent on it, because….

Mainly I want to eliminate day-to-day use of a smartphone. I don’t imagine that I can do without one altogether — they’re too valuable when traveling and in other special circumstances. But for my everyday life I want to get back to a dumbphone like the one I was using three years ago — before it stopped working with my network and the iPhone dragged me back in. (There’s a new and updated version of the Punkt.) I want a life in which I have only one internet-connected device, and that device is my laptop, and my laptop spends a lot of time in a bag.