Breaking out of the Cult of Free

For the last few years and especially this one, I have been working on breaking out of what Vox Day has called the “cult of free”. This is something I believe he’s talked about more in his livestreams. This mostly concerns Internet websites and products such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube and anything offered free of charge. I’m not sure where it originated but there is the saying that if you aren’t paying for a product then you are the product. And indeed, all the companies above are after your data for various reasons whatever they may say. However what I’ve been doing also extends beyond this. Amazon shopping isn’t free but it is almost always cheaper than everywhere else and they can make these products cheaper partially by making their customers products too. Other services such as Netflix are cheap but considering most of the content, the moral cost is far higher.

You could date when this started back five years ago when I deleted Facebook but at the time I hadn’t planned to go scorched earth on Big Tech. I more consciously started this process a few years ago when I began getting rid of all the excess accounts I had accumulated all over the Internet. This took quite a while and I was forever remembering places where I had registered even a year after I started. This began with a decision to significantly reduce the amount of time I spent on video games. This hasn’t completely gone as a hobby but my focus and interest in it has been reduced significantly. All the areas on the web where I am registered are now known and listed by me and as of writing are numbered at twelve.

The next step after this was to get off free email which I had been using with Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. Most of these accounts I’d had for a long time so before I could get rid of these services, I had to make sure I had nothing connected with them. This was quite a tedious process but as of writing these accounts no longer exist if the companies are to be believed (which they aren’t). I started using ProtonMail but I didn’t just use it — I paid for it. There is a free option but I purchased my email just like people used to do in the early days. Are they completely trustworthy? I don’t know for sure but they’re certainly more trustworthy than the alternatives and because money has exchanged hands for a product, they have far more incentive to do right by me than a corporation offering free email does. The email service is the product — not me.

I also got rid of Amazon which I had been using since around 2003 back when it was still mostly for selling books. Getting off Amazon is harder than it seems though because they almost have a monopoly on books owning both BookDepository and AbeBooks. I have tried other sites but they still seem to be connected to the same database but the main point is, I’m avoiding their tentacles as much as possible.

This brings me to Google and Microsoft. These two are probably the hardest after Amazon to get rid of because they truly do have their hands in almost every pie. I have been using Brave Browser for a number of years and have turned off as many things as I can find that connect it to Google. I still watch YouTube from time to time for music and the few remaining channels that haven’t been banned but I have no account with them and they need to rely on what they can get from my IP address. With Microsoft, I am still writing this on a Windows 10 computer but I’m in the process of switching to Linux. The one I am using now will still have a dual boot but I will only use Windows when I have no other option. I certainly don’t trust that they follow through with this but I have disabled all the data sharing and bloat that comes with Windows 10. This will be my last Windows OS too as Windows 11 looks to be even worse.

Next came the smart phone which I decided to stop using based on the advice of an article by Roosh V. I had been using an iPhone since I got the 4S model in 2014 and earlier this year I decided to stop using a smart phone completely. This was one of the hardest spaces to get off. Apple really has a way of getting its hooks into you. They do this in one way by making it very easy to upgrade to a newer phone without feeling like you’ve lost anything (apart from money). Then there are the apps you accumulate that you actually use and even come to rely on. I started by carefully removing and storing years of photographs which was a lot even though I delete many and don’t take them that often. The iCloud (better thought of as someone else’s computer or server), had never been used but I made sure it was switched off. When I was sure it was all done the best I could, I had my account deleted and sold the phone. I actually got a decent price too considering it was already a few years old. Since then I’ve been using a Nokia 3310 like Roosh. It isn’t nearly as convenient at first but I have got used to it. I got my first mobile phone in 2002 so even by that metric, the things haven’t been that big a part of my life.

Lastly and most recently, I switched my blog from free to the paid for site you see here. In the five years I’ve been writing it, I haven’t really built an audience but I feel much better now doing it on a site I am paying for. I do have a lot of work to update broken links and make sure everything has migrated before I fully remove the old site but that is the nature of things. It is fortuitous that Vox Day’s blog which he had run on Blogger since late 2003 was taken down by Google a day after I migrated the blog. Blogger was acquired by Google the year after he started writing but he was prepared and has his own site up here. As small as I am, I might have found my own humble blog deleted at the decision of an algorithm any day and as this remains an important outlet for me, I didn’t want to let that happen. Actually paying for my own hosting also gives me more incentive to put effort into the site as well.

There are still other areas to address of course. I am still on Windows 10 and getting on Linux will be important. Another consideration would be a VPN and a password manager which I am working on. These aren’t quite under the umbrella of the “cult of free” but they are increasingly important as the freedoms we enjoy continue to erode before our eyes.

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