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digital wellbeing

about

welcome to this page! this is intended to be a resource for anyone who has concerns about their relationship to technologies. while these things are amazing, its important to acknowledge and try to combat when our use begins to create negative impacts in our lives and gets in the way of work, relationships, hobbies, mental health, and general day-to-day.

ive been an active user of the internet, social media, and smart phones for over 13 years, starting when i was a young girl. over the past few years ive grown tired of the negative effects created by excessive use of these things and am trying to change my habits for the sake of my future. i want the internet and my devices to be tools to help me navigate, communicate, and create, id like them to be a place of discovery and somewhere to inspire me, and also somewhere to be entertained and to have a laugh. not to be a place where my psychology is used against me to keep me scrolling around for long periods of time to benefit big companies.

this page is intended to be accessible to all kinds of people, and has a focus on the effects of social media in particular. there is also information for general use of the internet, smartphones, big tech services, and more. this page will be constantly updated, and the majority of tips here are things that i currently or am planning to do. i hope that something on this page can be useful to someone out there :o)

CONTENTS

CHANGES IN THE BRAINRECLAIM YOUR MINDDECLUTTER VS DETOX
DATA AND PRIVACYGOING OLD SKOOL
MY BLOGSTHE TOOLBOXBORN 2 B A WEBMASTA...

CHANGES IN THE BRAIN

as a teen, i was using social media and smartphones in a pocket of time where parental controls did not exist for these things, so my parents couldnt control how much time i spent on my phone or what i was looking at. i never learnt how to appreciate these technologies as tools and instead got sucked into them. over the past 11 years, ive spent an immeasurable amount of time mindlessly scrolling the internet and social media, i am concerned about the effect this has had on my development into an adult. i also fear what it will do to those who won't even remember life without social media or smartphones.

as an adult, ive noticed that i fall into a lot of findings from research on social media and smartphone use - for example, i have difficulty concentrating and a fragmented attention span. this is frustrating to me as it resulted in me failing a lot of work at school, and carries over today into making artwork. i found that this started to happen just as i really started to heavily use social media. when you scroll through social media, you consume information at such a high and random rate that your mind doesnt have time to mull over anything youve consumed and has to take things at face value and hop to the next thing. the "dopamine hit" which is often talked about when talking about posting online and getting "likes" in my opinion rolls over into mindless scrolling, as your mind learns to crave a new post that excites you. because of this, you become addicted to scrolling, and you scroll until you find something that satisfies the craving. the move into endless timelines instead of chronological timelines, where you could actually catch up with posts, has made this worse imo. this also rolls off social media and into general internet use, such as:

  • ☹ being able to immediately google anything that pops into ones mind
  • ☹ scrolling through news sites endlessly
  • ☹ going down SHITTY YOUTUBE RABBIT HOLES
  • ☹ mindlessly clicking "next" while listening to music
  • ☹ scrolling through shopping websites endlessly
  • ☹ ive even found myself doing this on neocities, mindlessly trying to find a new website that will excite me.

theres nothing inherently wrong with doing these things, but the key words are mindlessly, endlessly, and unintentionally - i do these things without actually thinking, and often as a form of procrastination or trying to distract myself from important work or life.

the smartphone intensifies this effect. this is because you can pull out a smartphone anywhere you are, and with 4G/5G almost anywhere, you dont have to wait long periods of time for things to load. if you have a spare moment to yourself, the addiction (to call it anything but this is denial) suggests finding something quickly online, and being able to reach for your phone anywhere you are enables this. apps on phones are also designed to pull you in, down to notification colour choice and vague+incomplete notifications. its at the sad point where one cant even enjoy a silent moment between friends and other company without resisting pulling out their phone. for the past decade, children have been growing up watching the general public and their parents fall into this addiction. they will think this is normal, and some are even starting to begin their lifetime addiction too.

i also think that too much screentime leads to issues with connecting to the real world. this is something i dont often see spoken about when it comes to these kind of conversations. this can be applied to things such as bingewatching (thanks to netflix, this has intensified since TV) and videogames. i feel i have trouble connecting to my physical reality sometimes. im not saying this is soley because of my excssive screentime as a teen, i think theres other things at play, but id consider it a significant contributing factor. it has been suggested that screentime is negativly impacting childrens capacity for mental imagery. of course tv existed before smartphones and tablets, but the issue is some children rarely experience time without them now. i work in retail and i have seen countless toddlers and children in prams being wheeled around holding tablets and watching those god awful passive "learning colour videos" from youtube... many children are spending more time on screens than away from them. if i think i have issues connecting to the physical world due to screen usage as a teen, how will it affect humans from infancy? this problem is already starting to arise through the playing of video games in virtual reality, and now mark zuckerberg himself is investing in the so called "metaverse", described by him as 'the suceesor to the mobile internet'.

RECLAIM YOUR MIND

"theres a hidden goal driving the direction of all the technology we make [...] every news site, TED, elections, politicians, games, even meditation apps, have to compete for one thing - our attention - and theres only so much of it." - tristan harris

focus and attention

  • turn off all notifications. not just on your phone, but on your computer. comb through every app, software, and website and make sure youre only receiving critical notifications. if you use a smartphone, this is essential and id reccommend keeping your phone on silent/do not disturb forever. even hearing or seeing a notification is enough to fragment your focus.
  • intentionally choose times in your day where you would mindlessly consume technology to spend in solitude. for example, at breakfast or lunch, waiting in lines, commuting, or in the hour after/before you sleep. this helps to give your mind space to not be distracted, and connect more to the world around you.
  • try using website blockers. on smartphones, most OS now have a "downtime" feature or something similar. this will help you stay focussed when you unconsciously try to open sites or apps that you are trying to get a dopamine hit from. i have a couple listed in the toolbox, and i especially recommend leechblock.
  • ♥ check out the declutter section for more ways to remove unnecessary digital distractions.

embracing the ways of the old web and pre-smartphone times

  • leave social media, or drastically reduce your use of it. this tip will show up in just about every section. i left instagram and only use twitter/tumblr to post artwork professionally, and i find its easier for me to concentrate as using leechblock i can no longer access these sites. if you will keep social media, do not have these as apps on your phone.
  • make your own website! on your own site, you can make it look and say exactly what you want, and youre not restricted by boring profiles that social media makes you squeeze into. in the toolbox, there are some tools. get your friends involved too!
  • use a featurephone - or a "dumbphone" or drug dealer phone lol. feature phones are generally slower to connect to the internet (if theyre capable of it) and have less distracting functions. if youre anxious about making this switch, maybe try using one when you go to familiar places or with friends. i will hopefully be making this step soon.
  • avoid earphones - maybe a strange one but if youre at home, try and listen to music aloud. i have been trying this recently instead of blasting my ears everyday for 5 hours with music while i work. im doing this to give my ears a break (they get blasted enough at concerts and parties), and to be in touch with the environment around me while enjoying music. i have found that im much less likely to mindlessly skip through music.
  • bring a book - replace moments you might spend scrolling through your phone with reading a book. i read on my commute to work, which totals 1 hour of reading per day. in the UK, you can join a library for free.
  • write things down - write things down!! i find to write on paper allows me to brainstorm more, and compare ideas against each other as i cannot backspace on something i dont like. much of this page was originally written on paper. i also trailed this a few weeks ago, where before leaving to london i wrote down all of my train times instead of compulsively checking my phone for them and then getting sucked down a SHITTY RABBIT HOLE.

general time apart

  • having hobbies outside of screens and that connect you to the physical world is important. find something youre super passionate about that has the ability to override the temptation of a screen. this can include walking, exercising, sewing, gardening, reading, socialising...im an artist, so i can choose to make something traditionally instead of digitally.
  • promise not to pull out your phone unless in emergencies around friends and family. we are humans and we are built to connect with the people in front of us. even in moments of silence, stay away from the phone. when you start doing this, you might feel salty at first by seeing others using their phones instead of paying attention to you. try and encourage them to join you and explain why, and remember that theyre going through the same addictive problems as you.

DECLUTTER VS DETOX

in the context of digital wellbeing, to detox is to spend time away from technologies. to declutter is to permanently get rid of some technologies. in cal newport's 2019 book digital minimalism, he outlines this difference, and how to declutter your tech habits using a 30 day digital declutter. to do this, you must first identify your critical technologies - for example, communication with work - and abstaining from the rest for 30 days, instead filling your time with leisure, solitude, and the discovery or further clarity of your values, wants, and needs. at the end of the 30 days, you reintroduce technologies ONLY IF they align with your newly released values, wants, and needs.

this is only a brief summary of the book. i decided to take on this declutter in september of this year. in my account of that month, i felt as though because of my years of doing this anyway without really having this word attached to it, i did not find much had changed. for me, a big takeaway was that i needed to treat my devices more like tools, like they were once intended to be rather than essentials or external body parts like smartphones are treated as, and think how can i use them to benefit me rather than use them with no kind of intention and have big companies actually benefit from me.

for the past few years in many aspects of my life including how i use technology, ive been using the konmari philosophy - simply, only keeping things in your life that "spark joy". minimalism is off putting to people as they misinterpret it as a grey room with nothing in it, but to be minimalist for me is to keep things in my life that are only useful to me, and with a konmari twist, also bring my life excitement and joy. i dont keep things that are useless and take up space in my mind, or are a cause of unnecessary distraction. newport defines a "digital minimalism" -

"a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimised activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else"

set aside a few hours one day to do the following:

  • organise and regularly purge files, bookmarks, and downloads. i used to have an extremely messy desktop but every month i have a day where i clean both my physical and digital space thoroughly. i get rid of anything thats not useful or important to me, and organise what i have left into folders.
  • uninstall applications or software you no longer use. if they have accounts attached to them, try and remove those too. you can use justdeleteme to aid in the removal of accounts.
  • unsubscribe from all the useless shit in your email inbox. again, the link above may help.
  • curate your feeds. on any site or app where you "follow" others, without looking at these sites, write down every account youd like to keep up with. once youre done, go to these sites and unfollow any account that didnt make it onto this list. you can write down accounts for future reference, for example, i have a list of creators on youtube who make royalty free music - but i visit the channels when i am in need of the music, im not subscribed. if you must, most sites allow you to mute accounts.
  • if you havent already, download an adblocker.

DATA AND PRIVACY

well, it was only a matter of time before the web became primarily a marketplace where now even YOU are the product!

advertising is nothing new, but online, it can take a much more sinister form. the majority of websites record everything you do - what you search, where you are, your basic information, and even how long you spend looking at something - and use this information to target adverts towards you. google in particular is nefarious when it comes to this. below, you can see just a small fraction of the profile that google had gathered on me over the years.


(if you have a google account, you can view yours here. almost all of mine was accurate. except for blues because i dont listen to tht shit lol)

this profile, as stated on the page, is formed used basic information id given them, how i used their services (ie what i googled and watched on youtube) and from sites that "partner with google". looking at this list, that appears to be just about every site ive probably ever visited. ive since turned this off, but as ive realised through youtube's incredible "you can turn your history and recommendations off, but we will still recommend videos to you quite obviously based on what youve watched meaning we've still recorded your history" feature, they will still be collecting this data. i have found that after visiting clothing sites, adverts for the exact products i was looking at will appear on other seemingly unrelated websites. when i used to use instagram, i found that a lot of art, vegan food and sustainable products, video games, lifestyle adverts, makeup and clothes adverts where finding their way into my feeds. this was based off of who i followed and what i searched, and the posts i was viewing and liking, and the information they already have being that im a young female. sometimes, i didnt even realise they were ads. i occasionally got ads based on my location - even though i had turned it off, once again, its never really turned off.

now why should this be a concern to you? while writing this page and doing research i found a thread (which i shall not link) where people seemed to just... not give a shit? in ways, they were right - nothing im saying is of any kind of exposé or secret knowledge, and if we'd bothered to read the terms and conditions or privacy policies, it turns out we'd already agreed to have this happen. however, i find it a cause for concern as it feeds extreme consumerist habits of those who are susceptible, and its also been shown that this data can be used to change people's way of thinking, particularly politically. the 2019 documentary the great hack, and facebook whistleblower sophie zhang suggest that the data collected on people on had allowed certain organisations and groups to use this data to help sway political views and elections. not to mention, the blatant censorship/suppression big tech companies already do of even slightly conservative opinion.

though many big tech companies promise to care about our data and privacy, i still find myself extremely wary of the potential of what could come of so much information being gathered on me. as seen by the google profile above, most of it is quite generic - but their algorithms will be getting smarter and more specific. our names, ages, passwords, addresses, and card details are already submitted to many places across the web and can be used against us should they fall into the wrong hands.

as i learn more, i hope to add more information and resources to this page. for now, here are some tips:

  • stop using google services as much as possible. as explained, google is linked to just about every website on the net and is a data magnet. consider using a different web browser to google chrome, and no longer using google as a search engine. visit the toolbox for various alternatives. stay logged out of google services as much as possible, and if you can, move services. this will knock a big dent in what is recorded about you. (more to come hopefully!!)
  • do not use smart assistants. do not use things such as cortana, siri, amazon home, google home, alexa, or whatever "smart assistant" that can learn from the things you are asking it.
  • turn off any permissions for microphone access, and only allow access when you are to use it.
  • avoid logging into/signing up to sites unless you are using the service (ie to checkout, to post, etc.), and if you can, use services as a guest. wont necessarily do a whole lot, but it can help add a bit of a filter to how much information ends up stored into your account about you. not signing up means less companies have a hold of your email address, name, address, card details, full name, and phone number.
  • avoid buying and browsing from big companies - try and buy from small and independent business who dont have the power to sell your data to big companies and follow you around the web.
  • leave or drastically reduce the use of social media, especially facebook's services. facebook, instagram, and whatsapp are all owned together and can transfer data about you between the apps, making targeted ads and your data profile more specific.
  • use a VPN (virtual private network) - a vpn helps keep your data private. more info here.
  • ♥ if you havent already, download an adblocker.

the reality of using the internet in 2021 is that you can never be completely safe from tracking and privacy violations. in short, i feel that avoiding google, social media, and shopping online as much as possible is a good way to cut back on how much information is gathered about you. you can also check out this spyware watchdog index to learn more about what information is gathered about you on certain services. this site includes information on discord that doesnt seem to be well known. at the very least, being aware of how these services are gathering and using your data is important.

GOING OLD SKOOL

consider this section a short follow up to the previous section about data and privacy, and is a little bit of a tangent on how to stop consuming and buying so much online which can feed into the collection of your data.

my recommendation is to overall go a bit old school. write on paper, abandon cloud services, download instead of stream... because sometimes, convenience is the enemy...

theres also a collection of tips in reclaim your mind which also fall into this category and vice versa.

  • stop using streaming services like netflix and spotify. the convenience of these services is alluring, of course. however, these services are unpredictable and remove content all the time, and spotify is notorious for paying artists dirt (allegedly, itd take over 263 streams of a song just for an artist to earn $1USD). still working on this one myself. what did you use before netflix and spotify? well...
  • use physical media, or download media online. by physically owning something, or having downloaded a file, you now OWN THAT THING FOREVER. it wont disappear off an unreliable streaming platform, and you can share with friends :o) i personally tend to buy either second hand, or from the artist directly. whether you choose to go down illegal or legal routes to access certain entertainment is up to you, of course... all you need is a little time, patience, and skill.
  • in general, learn more about consumerism. reduce what youre buying and consuming, as chances are, you dont need or truly want 90% of it.
  • avoid using cloud services, or uploading online to transfer files. this is something im still working on and didnt mention in the privacy section, but i think im stating the obvious when it comes to how unreliable cloud services (such as icloud, google drive, etc) can be. these services can come down at any point, your files are at risk of being hijacked and stolen (how many leaked nude newstories have we witnessed over the past few years). i wouldnt rely on these services to hold your files. i try to keep everything on at least 3 separate harddrives (including the ones already in my computer/laptop), and some other bits on a couple USBs. if i need to transfer files, i use these drives. i have an iphone and can transfer photos/videos by connecting by USB to my computer. other types of files i have to email to myself.

R U AN ARTIST ON SOCIAL MEDIA??? CLICK HERE!!!!!!!!

MY BLOGS

these blogs document in detail my personal experience with trying to improve my relationship to technology and the net.

you can also find general thoughts on digital wellbeing which ive sprinkled in here:

THE TOOLBOX

a round up of the links provided on this page, as well as some other bits. if any links are broken please let me know!

website blockers

  • leechblock - a FREE website blocking browser extension. it is highly customisable and flexible. it works on chromium based browsers and firefox.
  • forest - a smartphone app with a browser extension version which allows you to pick an amount of time to focus. in this time, you are growing a virtual tree. if you leave the app (or on desktop, access a banned website) your tree will die. brutal. student me owes this app a lot lol
  • hide twitter trends - removes "whats happening", "who to follow", and "topics to follow" from twitter. for chromium based browsers.
  • ublock origin - blocks adverts and some tracking. works on a variety of browsers.

privacy

  • nordvpn - a well trusted but paid VPN
  • free VPN services + some to avoid
  • spyware watchdog article catalogue - while i dont necessarily agree with this sites definition of spyware, i do think its worth checking out their list of web browsers, search engines, messaginging clients, social media, and other services and how they collect and use your data.
  • data big tech companies have - a simialr link to the one above, its good to check out the detail theyve collected about the data google, facebook (includes instagram and whatsapp), amazon, apple, and twitter collect on an individual
  • how to install and configure ungoogled chromium - ungoogled chromium is what it says on the tin...google chrome but without all the google tracking ur whole life
  • duckduckgo - private search engine alternative
  • justdeleteme - a directory of websites and how to delete your accounts from them... well, if that site allows you to, of course...
  • alternatives to big tech platforms and programs - a compilation of alternate OS, search engines, browsers, and many other facets of everyday internet use. i hope to check out more of this stuff myself soon.

making a website

  • htmldog - html and css beginner tutorial
  • w3schools - amazing site for html, css, and other languages tutorials and tools
  • ezgif - gif maker, and how every gif on this site was made
  • image colour picker - upload an image, and get the hex code of any colour in the image
  • website inspiration - check out these sites i follow on neocities and get inspired :o)

read/watch/listen list

  • the social dilemma - a documentary with commentary from many ex-big tech workers and outlines the consequences of social media's design. mirror 1
  • how a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day - tristan harris aka my favourite whistleblowing master of human persuasion ex-google employee
  • ★ cal newport's digital minimalism - how to philosophically approach how to have technologies in ones life
  • the dangers of data collection - a brief summary of what can happen to the data you put online
  • the great hack - an exploration of how data company cambridge analytica used social media to help influence the 2016 US election. mirror 1 mirror 2
  • ★ an introductary video with olia olania on archiving the early internet and some history if youre new to neocities and dont know about geocities...maybe send 2 friends who dont know shit
  • join a library - (UK only) in the UK, you can get a free library membership and take out books for free. you can also get books in from other libraries for ¬£1. you only have to pay this fee, and any late fines. might vary across UK

  • ☆ james clear's atomic habits - a book about how to build and breakdown habits. useful not only in a digital wellbeing context, but in all aspects of life.
  • ☆ marie kondo's konmari method - i mentioned how i follow her philosophy of discarding anything that doesnt spark a genuine joy inside you, and though her philosophy is mainly used in decluttering homes, i believe it can be applied to anything in life, including one's digital habits. she has videos, a best selling book, and a brief explination here on her philosophy.

further reading by fellow neocities neighbours

  • sadgrl.online's cyber cafe - an excellent starting point for anyone looking to change the way they use the net. includes resources on building a site, archiving sites, bypassing paywalls, and a shit load of links
  • make the web great again on koshka's kingdom - has an amazing explanation of what the web once was, and a selection of other articles such as boycotting big companies and alternatives to them, site making resources, and some other interesting pieces.
  • that white hand - a site with a wealth of articles on helping one regain some of their digital privacy back.

other

  • playlist randomizer - a site that you can input youtube playlists and have them actually be shuffled as youtube seems incapable of doing it well. the playlist must be set as "unlisted" or "public" in order to work.
  • youtubemp4 - a site to convert youtube videos to mp3 or mp4 files. you can also input playlists - you cannot download the playlist in one go, but you can see all the videos so it frees the time you would've taken finding each individual link.
  • ytmp3 - another site to convert youtube videos to mp3 or mp4 files.
  • yt1s.online - another converter cos u can never have enough. use with an adblocker.
  • wayback machine - visit snapshots of websites throughout history, including sites that may no longer exist
  • video game music - a place to listen to and download video game music. you can download individual tracks free, but for entire albums, you need an account.

THINGS IM LOOKING FOR/PLAN 2 DO

  • ? software or sites to make cool playlists on
  • ? alternatives to office as i cba to pay and want to avoid google docs/sheets/slides
  • ? change operating systems, and avoid windows 10/11 like the plague
  • ? have a feature-phone, and keep my iphone SE (2016, and is my current phone) as a backup.

BORN 2 B A WEBMASTA...

check out the ancient artchive to see artwork i did digitally from as early as 2006, all made on this very laptop...

lets pay homage to my favourite websites from when i was a kid and obsessed with pokemon and tokyo mew mew...