Our relationship with the internet is something that we don't seem to give much thought to. We all seem to hold the belief that we have everything under control and there's nothing wrong with the services we use and how we interact with them. It's quite possible that these beliefs are true, however, I recommend bookmarking and giving this article a read through as a little self test.
Quality of Life
The fundamental basis of how to consider something to be good or bad is hard to determine. However, the long term quality of life of ourselves and those around us is a very reliable measuring device. Questions we can ask ourselves to help gauge this metric include:
- Is my relationship with the internet interfering with my ability to take care of my responsibilities?
- Is my relationship with the internet interfering with my ability to create and maintain healthy and lasting relationships?
- Is my relationship with the internet interfering with my health? For example, is it causing me to be too sedentary?
- Is my relationship with the internet interfering with my financial health? Am I spending too much money on, for example, gaming or gambling products?
If you have been missing work, not eating, not using the bathroom, not showering, missing deadlines, or other forms of not taking care of your responsibilities, you should see a doctor. Period. These are the symptoms of some rather serious conditions. If however you may wait a few hours before eating or something of that caliber, it demonstrates that your relationship with the thing that causes these behaviors may not be healthy.
Us humans are social creatures. It's normal and healthy for us to seek out relationships with one another. If however you find yourself feeling quite lonely and isolated, you might not be creating and maintaining healthy relationships. This could be due to a number of factors however if this is caused by your relationship with the internet, or your relationship with something, it may be time to evaluate.
A healthy diet and physical activity are two very underrated ways of staying healthy. If you find that you've developed a sedentary lifestyle (you sit or lay for long periods of time, you aren't excersizing) and are unable to change due to your relationship with the internet, or anything else, you have an unhealthy relationship with whatever it may be.
Buying a two dollar scratch ticket twice a year is fine for most people. However, if you find yourself putting yourself at financial risk, spending more than you make or you simply are unable to save due to your relationship with the internet, you certainly do have an unhealthy relationship with it and may need counseling, especially if you have an addiction.
It may be difficult to believe, but internet services are often designed to manipulate your behavior and emotions. This is not only unhealthy but often falls under the abusive category. If using an internet service makes you:
- Doubt yourself, it knows what's good for you
- Makes you feel angry or scared (think news articles) it's very likely that it's manipulating you.
If an internet service attempts to convince its users that it knows what's best for them, and causes them to feel that they might not truly know what's best for themselves, it's likely that the internet service in question is attempting to manipulate its users.
Fear & Anger
If you often feel angry or scared when using an internet service, it could be attempting to manipulate you. Websites are often funded by advertising revenue, so websites such as those that produce news articles or aggregate news try to get as many views as possible. A commonly used tactic is to create articles that cause the readers to feel angry or scared, causing them to read more on the topic and share the articles with friends. This is blatantly disrespectful towards users.
These are quite rare however, it's worth noting that a service provider may abuse its users. I recommend leaving a service if you discover any of the following to be true. Signs that a service provider is abusive include:
- Isolating users (and information)
- Insulting and mocking users
- Blaming issues on users
If a service provider refuses to allow you to connect with certain people or communities, it may be abusive.
Insulting or Mocking Users
If a service provider insults or mocks its user base, it's a clear demonstration that that do not care for and likely could be doing something scandalous to their user base. This one is a serious red flag.
Blaming Issues On Users
If the service provider regularly puts the blame of various issues on its user base, it's unlikely that they are fit to be providing a service. This could be a strong sign that they are not committed to providing a service and may have other motivations that disregard the user.
There are a few best practices when using the internet that should be followed. Like most things in life, using the internet does require a little work in order to maximize ones quality of life. These include:
- Use a few trusted services
- Prefer services that are self hostable and are libre software
- Use strong passwords
- Avoid services with known scandals, look for alternatives
- Avoid technologies that are often used maliciously
Few Trusted Services
By reducing the number of services you interact with, you reduce the number of malicious services you may come across. I'm not saying you should avoid all services besides a select few - the internet is promiscuous by nature - I'm suggesting limiting the amount of control you give services. Don't sign up if you don't need to.
Also referred to as free software, these services are auditable by the public and thus, tend to be more secure in nature. Service providers can still be nasty, so take the regular precautions, but in my experience there are far fewer bad actors.
Use Strong Passwords
See my (future) article on this topic. It's very important to use strong passwords for each service, and to use different passwords on each service.
Avoid Scandalous Services
This one may seem obvious. Services and service providers that are caught in scandals often don't change. Don't trust them.
Avoid Malicious Technologies
I recommend using FireFox with HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger, both by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is committed to your health on the internet. HTTPS Everywhere prevents establishing connections with websites that may not be entirely secure. Privacy Badger prevents malicious services from tracking you across the web. I also recommend uBlock Origin, which blocks advertisements that often contain malicious features. UMatrix, which is by the same author, I also recommend however I don't believe that it's for everyone, because it's quite difficult to use and often causes usability issues. If you are offered a service protected by "DRM", I would choose to avoid it, because often times you don't legally own the products you buy from such services.