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My journey to freedom

I remember when the Internet started to be available for everyone via 56kbit modems (the earliest I can remember). Back then, for years and years, it felt awkward to me to share personal information with totally random people. I did not do it back then. Most of us did not. Trust had to be earned. Then at some point first social networks were born, mobile phones started to be in the pockets of everyone. Things were still pretty ok, there wasn't smart phones, social networks didn't force you give out your personal details (nicknames anyone?) nor sold your data to the highest bidder. Generally speaking it was OK. It was the Internet. It was freedom of information. No DRM.

At some point smart phones started to be a thing. It felt good to be able to surf the Internet, check bus timetables and whatnot basically anywhere, anytime. I opted in as soon as possible. I've used Windows Phone, Android, Maemo, iOS and Sailfish too. However, something happened, it started to feel all wrong somehow. Clear evidence that those mobile phones (feature ones, but especially smart phones) are really portable tracking devices. Exceptations that you need to be available all the time, you need to be connected. Smart phones are making our lives more stressful, more hectic and in a way disconnecting us from the nature even more. Companies are collecting your data 24/7 just to sell you more stuff you don't really need. I'm not going to start even to talk about other uses for the collected data. I decided to stop using a smart phone. After just a week without one I realised something.

Our lives are full of social media and "cloud services". First I realised that I don't actually need Google account. I don't need Google Drive for my files. I don't use Gmail. I realised that I don't need Instagram, I don't need Whatsapp. It's just as easy and often more reliable to send a simple SMS. I do publish photos of my outdoor adventures. I can just as easily to host those pictures my self, no need for Instagram. I can just as easily host my files on my own server rather than uploading them to Google Drive. Cloud services are really nothing more than other people computers anyway. When you really think about it, do you want to put your personal files on other people computers? I don't want to. Back in the day many of us used to have our own websites, sharing pictures and files. We already had social network. It was called the Internet. Why we want to have social networks inside a social network? Given all the downsides of these so called social networks, I don't think we really want that.

Of course things like mass surveillance do not just go away even if everyone started thinking like me. However, at least we can be in control of our data. Own our data. That's something.

So, what I use today?

I do not use a smartphone. I do not use Instagram, I do not use Facebook, I do not use Whatsapp. I use is Mastodon which is part of the GNU social network federation. I use IRC. Those are not controlled by any single entity so I feel they are supporting the original idea of the world wide web. I use email. If possible, I prefer using PGP with it. You should too, it's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. I have a phone without internet capability.

Some updates (2018-03-24), I started using a smart phone again. However, living without one did teach me a lot. I don't need Instagram, I don't need Google and generally I don't need or use any of that typical smart phone stuff. What I do use, is Signal for messaging and ordinary phone calls. Search engine is Duckduckgo. I have custom rom installed on my phone with hardly any apps. I think is this at the moment the best compromize I can do. In the end I do not believe that denying modern technology is the answer. Fixing our attitude for privacy is the answer. Fixing governments and large corporations is the answer.

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Copyright © 2018 Niko Rosvall