Most of us own a laptop (a few still own desktop computers), and many people just surf on their smartphones. But there’s no doubt that things have gone out of control. The Internet can be used for good (like finding lost pets or arranging litter clean-ups) and also offers a way for people to earn their living working from home (writing, crafting etc). But it can also be a source of stress: online ads and pop-ups (please don’t use these!), not knowing who to trust and privacy issues. Let’s see how to make your online experience productive, but without the stress. Also ask yourself if you really need social media.
Mostly, it’s not possible these days to go totally offline and live in the real world. But you could switch to greener more affordable broadband and take a digital detox. That’s what writer Christina Crook did, after hearing a man of the cloth praising blackberries (the phones, not the fruit!) Thinking the world had gone mad, her own experiment ended her with using computers far less.
you only need one computer
If you have more than one computer, ask yourself why. And before you consider it, Africa doesn’t want us sending all our technotrash to them (causes pollution and fire hazards). But a local charity may appreciate an unused computer (after cleaning your hard drive) or used ink cartridges (recycled to raise funds). If you use your laptop for basic ‘surfing and sending emails’, you can get away with a good secondhand one from your local laptop shop (or new, choose a simple student version like HP Stream which does all you need, and comes in pretty colours too!)
how to simplify your computer
After paring down to one computer, it’s time to bin (or recycle) all the technotrash like unwanted cables and plugs (good for preventing electrical fires too). When times comes to replace, switch to Recable (a German-made Fair Trade reusable USB that has a carbon footprint almost half that of major brands, and is sent in a grass paper belly band, to avoid plastic. Use code NATURALLY for 10% off.
Take an hour or so to streamline your online life. Remove all unwanted files, pictures, documents, emails, unused blogs and bookmarks. Then use free WiseCleaner to scan and delete unwanted files in seconds to help secure privacy and stop viruses (repeat daily). Install a free ad-blocker (which also gets rids of pop-ups and social media ads), install an extension to remove suggested videos and preview spam mail (so you don’t open it accidentally).
Then create a little ‘online space’ either in a spare room or corner, with a comfy chair (with cushions) and desk, inspiring pictures and photos and uplifting quotes. This means you’ll feel incentive to take regular breaks outside or inside with a nice cup of tea, rather than just ‘staring at a blank wall’, when you need some time off work or study. You’ll then return online less tired, and more inspired!
clean & speed up your laptop
Before throwing away a slow laptop, do the above to find if it speeds things up. If not, often local laptop repair shops can restore to factory settings (by wiping the hard drive) for around £50. Also make sure you install recommended updates and let laptops cool down (don’t leave it on overnight). Often a laptop is slowly simply to dust between keys (a can of compressed air does the trick).
If you need to wipe the hard drive, you can store important files on pCloud (add them back when you’re done – Swiss privacy laws means the files are safe). If you run a website, install free plug Stop Spammers to stop it in seconds.
your right to privacy online
Surfing the net does not give others the right to invade your privacy. Some people obviosly have to investigate cyber terrorists and online paedophiles. But if you’re innocently surfing the net, you should be able to do so without others snooping or tracking your browsing history. Switch to an anonymous browswer like Startpage (free to use, your search history is never sold or saved, and your IP address is removed from their servers, to prevent third parties tracking you). Also use a good VPN that replaces your IP address with an anonymous one (turns green when protected). Set up a private email address with Tutanota.
Some companies (like Twitter) need you to verify accounts by phone. The problem is that your phone number can be searched to find you (dangerous for people escaping domestic abuse or on witness protection). The safest solution is simply not to use such companies. If you do, then buy a cheap new phone and use that number instead, at present the only way to get around it.