If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product
There’s a popular movement in the West called, “minimalism.” Although it spans many fields, a particular application is the de-cluttering of people’s homes, the cleaning out of extraneous possessions. As it clears out a space, so it clears up the mind –even the soul. I would like to propose we do the same with our digital lives. Why bother filling your life with Netflix subscriptions and purchases of latest phones when we know that life is most clearly enjoyed in the company of other human beings? Why would you let someone else steal your personal information and profit from their sharing? To this end, I’ve compiled a few questions which you can ask yourself to de-clutter your digital life, and perhaps break the addiction of screens that are dragging your life down.
- Do I store my music on my devices or with a cloud provider? If it’s by a cloud provider, do I have a compelling reason to do so?
- Who do I share my personal information with?
- Do I use an ad blocker? If not, you should get one immediately. I recommend Brave.
- Can I list, on a napkin or post-it note, the number of services that I’m subscribed to online? If you can’t remember, you should research and know; if the number goes past the length of the note, it’s too much. Digital services should be considered utilities and given the same kind of attention to each month.
- When I open my computer, do I know exactly what I’m using it for? In other words, am I using my computer to accomplish a task, or is the computer using me to accomplish a profit?
The computer and the internet were made to make men more free in their ability to know and create. However, a person lacking in virtue can easily let these freedoms overwhelm their temperance and cause one to gorge on the endless variety of pleasures it provides. A virtuous individual will be able to use these tools to make him/herself better. A virtuous citizen will be able to use them to make the community around them, and their country as a whole, better. If we cannot make the right decisions about how we use computers, we risk having the organizations behind them (whether it be the manufacturer, political party, etc.) take control over our attention, and therefore, our minds.