Taking It Back
On January 11, 2021, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece. It started like this:
I’m suspending indefinitely my use of Twitter , Facebook and other social media. I’m doing so not to make a political statement, but in the hope that America can return to kitchen tables, churches, taverns, coffee shops, dance halls (it’s a Texas thing)—whatever it takes to look others in the eye and rebuild our communities and humanity.
As a husband and father, I also want to stop spending so much time looking at a screen and reacting in ways that are inconsistent with who I am and—most important—who I strive to be as a Christian. — Chip Roy
In addition to that article, I’ve compiled an unhappy list:
Incivility, brutality, newspeak, depression, anxiety, division, censorship, dehumanization, narcissism, arrogance, insecurity, isolation, impatience, ignorance, eye strain, laziness, fear, car wrecks, bullying, backaches, thought control, detachment, unemployment.
Whatever words strike home for you, most of us agree that technology monopolies and censorship are unlikely to be good for America in the long term, and probably not in the short term, either. Equally important is the effect technology has on us and our kids personally – on our personalities, viewpoints, and happiness. The classroom is a microcosm of culture. Classical Christian education is a system based on great ideas. Because it teaches students to analyze, critique, debate, communicate, and apply truth to ideas, it will fail in a culture that does not believe in either.
A Personal Story
Ibegan this journey about two months ago (January 2021) when I decided to take steps to diversify my online presence and lessen my reliance on online shopping. I thought it would be overwhelming and impossible. It wasn’t. Getting started is the hardest part.
Today, I am thoroughly enjoying ProtonMail, more private browsing and searching, additional shopping options, and helping local businesses.
A Note from ProtonMail 2/11/21: Why Big Tech deplatforming should be deeply disturbing for everyone, regardless of your politics
But the biggest surprise came from Amazon. After deciding that I needed to lessen my dependence on them, and that cold turkey was really the only way to make it happen, I expected to be surprised by how hard it would hit. (I have been with the company from the beginning. It was a much bigger part of my life than social media.)
Instead, here is what surprised me:
1. My bank account. It’s almost embarrassing how much easier it is to make ends meet these non-Amazon days (see #6).
2. The sheer number and quality of other online sources. I have plugged in with other online retailers and all have been good. To replace the wish list, I planned to keep a list of my own, but so far I haven’t needed it. I have not been back to the website except to check on previous items or activity. (We also replaced our malfunctioning FireStick with a Roku unit and it’s so much better that we’ll never go back!)
3. How much I don’t miss Amazon. I figure, if I can only get it on Amazon, I don’t need it. But so far, there is nothing I haven’t been able to buy for nearly the same price and delivery speed. Also, refer to #1.
4. Time. It’s amazing how much time a person can spend on Amazon looking for a spatula.
5. How much more engaged I am with my family and current events. Even if it’s “just a shopping site,” it is still a form of technology that can consume your mind (at least for us anti-shoppers and cheapskates). “Do I need to add that to my wish list, is there a cheaper one, how many options are there for drain covers, I wonder if they have red gingham lampshades, what if I forget to buy that big pack of cheap socks while they’re in stock? …” It’s as if Amazon were a presence, sapping bits of mental energy all day, just like it intended. When I sat down to “relax,” I’d be thinking, “Is there anything I need to read/research/buy today? What’s on Prime? Did I print out that return?” No more.
6. Life experiences (and #1, again). The other night, my son needed pants for a formal dance. My first thought: Get pants right away on Amazon. Instead, we went to H&M at the local mall for the first time in… ever. We had fun; we talked.
But then my son said, “I don’t really like anything here. Are you sure I need new pants?” So we looked more carefully at the requirements, and it turned out we already had what he needed — we just hadn’t remembered in the shopping rush. He looked great for the dance!
7. I’d forgotten how many great books there are that I still haven’t read. New books are enticing, used copies are easy to get, and Kindle Unlimited is easy. (Note: From my experience, the Kindle Unlimited quality is far below standard except for some best sellers to lure people in. I found myself using it only because it was easy, and I’d keep saying, “This one will be better.” Many threw in such political and/or trashy spins that I quit part way through.)
With my new found increase in time (see #4) and my focus NOT on book advertisements or Kindle Unlimited, I’ve read more good books in the last 8 weeks from my own bookshelf than in the past year. (Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield, and the entire “Little House on the Prairie” series.) Life is short. My new book lover’s motto: There are more fantastic books already written than you can possibly read in your lifetime. Be selective.
8. What I miss: The hilarious reviews for items like “banana slicer.” Read those before you leave.
Your technology story won’t be like mine, but you probably have one waiting to be written.
Share your technology control story here! We would love to share it with others!
Technology in Perspective
Here are some ways we can rethink technology.
- Technology is a tool. When you need it, control it and use it. Don’t let it do either to you.
- Look around. Support as many small online, and especially local, businesses as possible.
- Monopolies are not going to control themselves. Help to open a wider path for ideas to flow by intentionally using as many different stores, providers, and platforms as you can.
- Maintain a fluid mindset. If you expect change, it won’t seem so hard. Expect your online shopping, news, streaming, and social media platforms to change and expect to take some time to make them diverse. Keep tools handy that facilitate adopting new tools and quitting old ones, like password organizational systems.
- Facebook and other social media tools can be an effective way to communicate, a source for business, and fun, but most of us don’t really need it.
Replace > With
A list of alternatives. (Read more about this below.) Note: These have not been vetted.
- Facebook > MeWe, Gab, Diaspora, Ello, Minds
- Twitter > Parler, Tumblr, Reddit
- Email > ProtonMail Tip: Give yourself time. Switch logins to your new email as you use them.
- Google Search > Duck Duck Go
- Google Chrome > Brave, FireFox
- YouTube > Rumble, Vimeo
- Video > FandangoNow, Sling, VidAngel, Acorn (for British TV lovers)
- Streaming Devices > Roku
- News > For news mixed with human interest you might try Christian-based Disrn & Not the Bee. (NotTheBee also has a social site: https://notthebee.com/social)
Documentary: The Social Dilemma
An interesting aspect of some of these articles is when they were written — the earliest was 2018. Some sections are outdated, but it is helpful to see how these issues have accelerated.
Big tech companies that are near-monopolies do have competition in the marketplace, but it takes the will of us consumers to avoid using the easiest route possible and to explore our options. This will make services for everyone better, increase innovation, and improve employment in the long run. If you’re willing to do a little exploration there are tens of thousands of online small business ready to win you over. — Alternatives to Big Tech Companies
— Stormy Goodwin, Classical Christian Mom of 3 and Website Creator