Life update: Embracing a simple but effective digital life

In today’s Web, being online seldom means being present. Browsing doesn’t mean reading. Following hardly means connecting. Posting certainly doesn’t mean articulating. Commenting rarely means conversing. Listening doesn’t mean comprehending. Watching never meant absorbing. And likes don’t mean anything anyway. We largely live an internet without intent.

We succumb to the attention economy because it has hijacked our ways of production and value exchange by tapping into deep-seated psychological, evolutionary behaviors, traits that were never meant to face the incessant floods of our digital lives. Some of us just let things be, and manage to do whatever it is they want to do next on their phones or laptops. I envy them. Many of us don’t even think about escaping because they enjoy the instant validation loops. I feel sorry for them. Some, like me, have an anxiety-driven desire to grasp the means and ways in which they live on the Web. So that we can craft it to our needs, hone it to our liking, and control it against our detriment.

I don’t know about you but I’ve had enough of all the digital nonsense that gradually degrade my focus and intellect with engineered dopamine hits. Even though my digital living has been fairly focused for years, most of these measures like not having social media apps on my phone and turning off most notifications increasingly felt like workarounds. You see, as an independent space writer, I still manually posted and browsed some things on social media, and played more such games, just so my articles reach some more people. But there’s the trap. Even when it works, it comes at costs to healths of the self.

Why can’t I just work hard to write an article, publish it on my (relevant) blog—which auto-distributes to my email and RSS subscribers—and call it a day? I can then sleep, walk, eat, rest, whatever. The law of diminishing returns must outweigh the FOMO. The solution thus is to double down on living the Web in ways that I already know are effective and mindful. And so a month ago I endeavored to sequentially simplify my entire Web presence to that end. Here’s what my active Internet footprint looks like now.

I don’t want to wake up to a social media timeline of any sort

No, not even the ethical ones like Mastodon or Heck, I don’t want a separate timeline for videos (YouTube) or podcasts either. Or one for news or newsletters. Everything, and I mean everything, that I want to follow or subscribe to from anywhere on the Internet goes into my organized RSS reader because of its unmatched efficiency and control. Now I have a single feed to check, which I do when I want to or need to. It doesn’t notify or nag me, doesn’t screw up the order of posts, and doesn’t recommend things. It can be trusted to do nothing on its own.

No posting on social media, or even my microblog

Most people don’t blog, sadly, but tend to have three places to post: a Twitter-like network, an Instagram-like visual space, and LinkedIn. But microblogging is a terribly contextually deprived way to create and consume things, one hiding behind a gratification trap. It often felt like I’m sharing purposeful things there but had the interface not artificially limited me to 300 or 500 characters—and had I not been writing for (algorithmic) reader reactions—I often had more nuance and references to share. And so I’ll not post on any social media. I shall only blog now, a slower but more thoughtful way to communicate publicly. This way I also own the connection to my readers based on open technologies that have stood the test of time: Email and RSS.

Speaking of blogs, I have only two now

There’s my professional space blog, and there’s the general Journal J which you’re reading. I don’t want to waste time and mental effort thinking which post should go on which blog and which social networks. Now the question never comes up. For people who followed or subscribed to specific topics on my previously several blogs, I haven’t forgotten you! You can still opt-in and opt-out of specific categories via both email or RSS. Thanks to Manu, Kev, and Disha for helping me figure this out.

Oh, and I merged my website and professional blog too. The idea is one should be able to simply visit, and within one click read my latest space posts, navigate to key topics, read about me, or contact me. You can now.

Stop basic automated blog sharing to socials

Okay, this is the part where I’ve been cheating a little bit but hear me out. I have long been using, a web service that shares links to your new blog posts on social networks using your RSS feed. As such, I’d waste no time posting, and people can still follow me on those places. It sounded perfect. And so I used to have my blog posts auto-shared to over a dozen social networks this way. But it also meant I had to keep checking these places for interactions, which is exactly the dumb ape trait I’m trying to avoid. So I’ve now reduced the auto-shares to one network. I might kill that too if I don’t like the vibe. Again, go email or RSS. It will even survive AI.

Just email me

We all know how useful social media comments are overall. Some networks start off great but the moment they’re popular it all goes downhill. Blog comments have gone the spam way in the last decade. Enough of pointless roller coaster rides. Throughout these years, email has remained the best medium on the Web to deeply connect and converse with people. It’s not going anywhere. Which is why both my blogs now more prominently feature links and buttons to email me. Write to me to say hi or share your thoughts:

Private messengers also remain a good option but if you need to have my contact, you likely already do. In some cases you don’t need to but do anyway.

Discover the Web via Kagi

I can write a whole article on why I use the paid but powerful search engine called Kagi but suffice to say for now that the level of control it offers for search coupled with its default penalizing of ad-riddled and SEO-spam sites makes my day-to-day work a whole lot easier than Google or other search engines ever did. Kagi also allows searching only conversations within forums and social networks, should I want to gauge people’s reactions on a topic. It can search for podcast episodes too, meaning I don’t need a podcast app for that occasional listen.

Moreover, Kagi makes for delightful digital treks by making it easier to find niche or themed websites. Using it is like going back to the early days of the Internet, where a string of inquisitive searches would land you on unique sites you could spend hours on. Yes, just browsing the Internet can feel fun again.

Wake up to my Kindle

Now that I have these carefully curated web experiences, what do I do with so much that I can be curious about? Send to my Kindle. Any article, webpage or PDF that I don’t need to read immediately but want to at some point, I typically send to my Kindle. Waking up to an e-reader not only spares your brain from the modern digital mess but it doesn’t strain your eyes either. It also makes for good breaks during a working day, and leisurely readings on holidays.

The core problem with achieving this state of reading zen was that Amazon’s default methods of sending stuff to the Kindle are awful. It often results in broken content and layouts. This is where the indie service KTool takes care of everything with its great web app, browser extension, and mobile app. I’ve been curating sets of articles, wikipedia pages, and ebooks to consume this way, and it’s just joyful.

So there it is, my digital detox. Thoughts?

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