|Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash|
Hill took on one giant at a time and with the help of an expert colleague blocked all traffic from known IP addresses connected to Amazon, Google etc. Amazon alone controls over 23 million addresses which means that living without them is extremely difficult. So just stopping using the companies main site is not going to get them out of your life. Virtually everything we do online is dependent on five gigantic companies.
It’s not just logging off of Facebook; it’s logging off the countless websites that use Facebook to log in. It’s not just using DuckDuckGo instead of Google search; it’s abandoning my email, switching browsers, giving up a smartphone, and living life without mapping apps. It’s not just refusing to buy toilet paper on Amazon.com; it’s being blocked from reading giant swaths of the internet that are hosted on Amazon servers, giving up websites and apps that I didn’t previously know were connected to the biggest internet giant of them all.
The most interesting week of her experiment was when she blocked all five and tried to live with a non-connected digital camera, a no-frills Nokia mobile and a PC running open source OS Linux (watch the video about this week below). Suddenly she had almost nothing to listen to or watch since services like Spotify and Netflix are dependent on the big five. All streaming services were off limits as were most communication channels. Sending messages and files became extremely difficult because even if there are open alternatives they tend to be harder to use, less attractive in design and the people you need to communicate with are not on them. Hill calls the final stage of her detox as digital veganism and in the film below she interviews a tech expert who lives that way.
Basically we have allowed these companies to expand without any regulation and now when they control most of the internet it seems a bit late to try to fix things. Attempts are being made, most notably in the EU with, among other things, the recent GDPR legislation but there are few signs that the present US administration is considering any moves. The moral of the story from Kashmir Hill's experience is that we need to at least to become more aware of how dependent we are on the big five and try to limit that exposure to some extent. A certain amount of digital detox is recommended for all but at the moment it seems virtually impossible to escape completely.
Some final words from Hill's article series:
I went through the digital equivalent of a juice cleanse. I hope I’m better than most dieters at staying healthy afterward, but I don’t want to be a digital vegan. I want to embrace a lifestyle of “slow Internet,” to be more discriminating about the technology I let into my life and think about the motives of the companies behind it. The tech giants are reshaping the world in good and bad ways; we can take the good and reject the bad.