Sun, 17 Oct 2021
Likely you’ve lost my number and that’s why you’re here.
If you will humour me, I beg you to have a care for your own joys and take your pleasures seriously. That is, I ask you to linger with me for a little to chat about happiness and privacy.
I promise to make you less bothered, safer and (with your help) substantially happier with some simple immediate and practical advice.
I’ve trusted you with my home address, trust me with 20 mins of your time.
For A Practical Openness
A Stoic Argument Against Your Privacy
No doubt part of you is mildly alarmed that I’m so open with my details. ‘Isn’t it dangerous putting all this information out there?’ The short answer is No. Take my advice and breathe free air friend! My position is firmly felt, not frivolous, but ancient and stoic. I hope, for your sake, to prove to this to you not by argument but by putting your fears, not aside, but in their proper place.
The Anxiety of Openness
You are unconvinced of my philosophy, and rightly so, I have not proved anything. I can tell that I must allay your substantial worries before I have a hope of convincing you. My suspicion is that you are actually scared of your friends, but before we get to that I need to deliver you from your fear of strangers. So, to put first things first, let’s dispense with the worst of them with practicality and common sense.
Stoic wisdom has that we should take our fears seriously and consciously, lest they take control of us. That being the case, perhaps a thought experiment will soften your resistance. For argument sake, let’s say there are genuine monsters out there. Really bad ones. Omniscient phantoms with infinite resources. The ghost of Christmas past is listening to your clicks and watching through your camera and has no intent other than to nudge your life slowly and silently and surely toward a tragic mistake and thence to misery. The situation could not be worse, most tragically because you are hopelessly unaware. Let’s say this is in fact the case. Such a spectre will find you without google search, and find me without this page. Hiding my address or my phone number will not make a whit of difference to the great malign invisible, ever. The attempt to hide will only succeed in making life difficult for you, now my dear dear anxious friend.
The reality of our situation might be worse. First, it is that it’s 2021. Scammers, Advertisers and Vote Riggers are waist deep in your data. It has been out there for years. Every time you use a seemingly ‘free’ service, make no mistake: you are not getting some product for free. You are the product and you have been sold to Sam the Scam, Al the Adman and Vlad the Vote Rigger. Wisdom says that to whatever degree this is true, you need to accept it and deal with it.
It is at least silly, at worst dangerous, and certainly unwise to believe openness is the problem. The silly thing is believing that in this day and age, you can hide these basic details from anyone sufficiently motivated. The dangerous thing is believing that your number is the fact that matters in the first place.
This is not controversial and I’m not telling you much more than you already know. However, I suspect you have not done much about this because you don’t know how. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Following are my recommendations for some easy fixes for your digital life.
Then with your fears and annoyances put aside as they can be, I will argue with you for your happiness.
15 minutes to Freedom
(ok 20 mins)
Substantial Freedom from Spam, Scam and Surveilance
(1 min) First and foremost, help others and do your bit for democracy. Vlad the Vote Rigger is a dick and you should support the peeps keeping an eye on him: the Advertising Observatory has a thing for your browser. You can trust them. The Observatory is run by some nice engineering nerds at a University with support from a grab bag of non-profits you’d like, and the real life Newspaper of Superman fame.
Next, help yourself out and switch to software that is meaningfully free because it is non-profit. It is common sense that a for-profit will always have the temptation to sell out, sell you, and sell you out. So, switch to these Open Source options.
- (2 mins, 4 clicks) They have your data, why give them more? #ComeToTheDuckSide young Jedi. Leave google for the Anti-tracker Search Engine DuckDuckGo. Make sure you install their anti-tracker plugin for your browser to keep blocking Al the Adman after you click on the result you were looking for.
- (3 mins, 5 clicks) But they have so much already. Yes, yes they do. Why let them use it? Install this non-profit Advertising Blocker, AdBlock Plus. Why this one? I’ve used it for almost 20 years. This one has stood the test of time with only one concession: they allow text-only and un-intrusive ads. If you’re a purist you can even turn this off. If you’re a pure purist (with 6 mins) you can use the uglier but better uBlock (Firefox, Chrome, Opera). I use both.
- (7 mins, 20 clicks, 40 keystrokes) You want your anonymity? Do it properly and disappear in the crowd with a VPN. Use this free swiss option, ProtonVPN. Why? It’s the safest, cheapest and fastest. If they have ulterior motives, it’s to do with giant magnets: Their day job is smashing protons together to see whats in them at CERN.
- It’s not widely known but has always been the case that Physicists have the biggest internet connections. They need to trade Petabytes of data from their experiments. Typically 10,000x of what would fill your laptop. So they’ve got some big internet pipes nearby.
- As a claim to fame Proton comes out of the same labs that previously invented the web. If you want to support them to cover costs (for like $5) they also offer the worlds best secure email, calender and cloud-storage.
- As a kicker you can also unlock all the cool American TV on Netflix that you’ve been blocked from.
- (3 mins, 10 taps) Secure your texts. Don’t send an SMS, send a Signal. It’s the gold standard. Also, the phone calls are much clearer than you’ll get from a phone company. Get your nearest and dearest onto it.
- (5 mins, 15 taps) Secure your chat with an actual private messenger. Forget
Facebook Messenger/WhatsApp/instagramwhich are neither secure nor private, no matter how much they protest. (How could they be, all three are funded by Ad-money from Facebook.) Instead use Telegram, “The messenger that stood up to the Kremlin– and won”, according to the Washington Post. Secure AF. Also, has the best gifs and stickers.
There is one for-profit thing that I recommend. Screen out scam phone calls with Hiya. Now, they do sell your data in a sense, they preference big companies. However, they are pretty great at catching scam and spam.
On the Wisdom of Openness
That’s all the practical advice I have, and it will leave you less hassled and safer. This pleases me immensely. But, I also want you to avoid discomfort but to actually be happier in a substantial way. There is a bigger and much more important question here, and perhaps the true source of your original discomfort at my openness. “Is it dangerous to live a life of openness?” To my mind, it’s the safest choice. I think Aristotle is right (if a little dark) that “the antidote to 50 enemies is one friend” If he’s right, I’ll add that with those odds you should keep an open door unless you think more than 2% of people are actively out to get you. I’ll further add there is a real feeling of freedom that comes with being open. It feels good.
My worry for you is that by being too private will make you unhappy; at the very least you could be happier than you are without this hesitation and I intend to cure you of it. You see friends are a real joy in life, one of the greatest, and one that modern life has taken away from us piecemeal over the centuries. If being locked-down has taught us anything, it should have taught us that our friends are important. My advice in this regard is that you should, at the absolute minimum, be easy for your friends to find.
The difficulty is, that it takes some getting used to, and it can be oddly discomforting for one human to reach out to another. This is a real, genuine and very substantial problem. There are all manner of reasons for this, personal and cultural both, but let’s not intellectualise to numbness. It’s at least uncomfortable, and finding a way through these feelings has the reward of lightness and freedom. It is that far a worthwhile task. That being the case, I will not make it one moment harder for anyone, including you. This is why my details are here.
More than the apps, I recommend this attitude: That of openness.
I’ll also ask you to reach out to me, like … right now. A postcard or a physical letter to the address at the top would make by day, it truely would, but anything will do… Click an icon below and tell me what you’re thinking right now. I promise not to bite, or to reply right away.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out.