A friend recently asked if there is something I do in my day-to-day life that might represent well the current version of myself. While I knew the response is surely connected to the concept of degrowth, I realized how I have an established routine capable of answering part of the question.
As a believer in the power of small changes, I have absorbed several of these habits through a mix of personal adjustments and discussions with both friends and strangers. I’ve been broadcasting little pieces here and there, either as blog posts or on Mastodon.
Avoid centralized corporate-owned media websites, such as mainstream social networks
As a direct result of a natural instinct to refuse noise and toxic behaviour that leads to a lack of concentration, I never hang out in heavily crowded places. Why would I want to behave differently online?
Ignore the “news” and read only long-form analysis, essays and books
However controversial this might sound, I’ve gone down the same road more than a decade ago and it never failed to bring concrete results. After reading the manifesto by Rolf Dobelli and debating at length with my friend Claudio, it feels like one of the savviest choices I’ve ever made.
Don’t follow any hype
I’ve always disliked the way people around me wanted to be homologated. One thing is the feeling of being part of a larger group, such as at work, a sports team or a music band. Something entirely different is the impalpable force that seems to be able to attract masses, making them wear the same clothes and shoes, speak the same lingo or waste the same resources.
Stay clear of surveillance capitalism as much as possible
Can’t say I’ve been ideologically strict in pursuing this goal. I still have a Google account, even though it’s barely used, and I sometimes buy from Amazon. It’s more a matter of finding a balance that feels like it’s going towards the right direction. Perhaps, one day I’ll set myself free.
See what corporations are really doing, and act upon it
Yesterday, instead of upgrading to macOS Ventura, I’ve downgraded to Catalina1 even though I initially wanted to move even further back.
Why did I embark on such a lengthy and risky procedure? An army of inconvenient bugs that, when put together, plagued my experience ever since I moved beyond that OS. On a computer, I want the focus to be on my work, not its internals. Also, give me less flat design, not more.
Things I’ve noticed after being back to Catalina for a day:
- With subsequent upgrades, macOS has become ridiculously bloated. The installer has doubled from Mojave (
6 GB) to the current
12.5 GB. Broadband consumes electricity worldwide, therefore inflating online installers that must be downloaded (often multiple times) isn’t as green as Tim Cook try to make people believe.
- Bluetooth finally works again. No idea why, but ever since I moved to Big Sur and later Monterey, any bluetooth device failed to reconnect after the computer woke up from sleep. Nothing worked, except a forced restart.
- The widely touted Shortcuts app, that the previous Apple’s CEO would have made available to older OSes as well, is indeed useful. However, good old Automator fulfills my needs.
- External drives eject rapidly again, without unexplicably taking an eternity.
I’m sure it sounds trite to say that an older OS on a quite old machine feels snappier — regardless, the immediate result is how faster and more efficient the computer is. I won’t dwell on the UI this time.
The lesson here is: if I don’t want to change hardware that’s still perfectly capable, it is pointless for me to upgrade the operating system. After Apple’s arbitrary move to annual releases, the system has progressively become unstable, unpolished and bloated, showing a distinct lack of proper quality assurance.
Don’t buy the newest shiny thing, fix what’s not beyond repair instead
Directly connected to the previous habit, this is why I keep doing all my personal and business-related work on a 7-year-old laptop.
Similarly, my phone is a 4-year-old Xiaomi that was worth
£130 when new. After removing the original locked system, I replaced it with the newest Android release from an independent source. Even if it’s officially unsupported on said phone, it runs sharp and efficient.
A seismic metamorphosis if compared to less than ten years ago, today the whole of my technology is happily outdated, while still capable of holding my entire body of work.
I repair stuff whenever possible: last week I brought back an early 2007 27” iMac from the dead. Instead of becoming the umpteenth potentially working hardware to be dumped in a landfill, it now runs spectacularly well for a 15-year-old machine. All it took was a simple SSD drive swap and some internal cleaning. Cost:
Don’t force-upgrade software if the current “old” version can do everything
This is especially true for professional audio software. I only buy from small companies and stopped using inefficient behemoths like Adobe or Avid.
Also, beware of companies acquiring other companies to form larger corporations. Several mergers have subsequently applied the stupid model of sticking to forced annual releases or moved to subscriptions, with an obvious result: products don’t offer improvements that people actually need. It’s mostly marketing gimmicks.
Strictly refuse the walled-gardens of ecosystems
No iApple, no Google, no Microsoft. It’s perfectly possible to work outside of the so-called convenience. I don’t struggle to keep my diverse devices in sync and actively avoid giving my files to any of the big corporations.
Don’t bloat the web with pointless data
It might sound minor, but I always wonder why people still attach featured images to their blog posts. The habit of including meaningless huge “artsy” images comes from marketing bullshit infused by so-called SEO gurus, and the direct influence of social media which unfurls shared URLs into a fancy card. Just appoint a logo image for the scope and it’s done.
Personally, I want to read the article, not stare at an image only remotely related to the post. Use pictures only when they’re really needed, and optimize them for the web.
One concrete action I’ve achieved yesterday was the complete eradication of Node, Bootstrap and SASS from my computer and this website. Once Catalina was up and running, I’ve decided not to restore the previous development environment, building a leaner one instead: it took less than an hour.
I now only have to handle Jekyll (Ruby and a few gems) and plain CSS. I run tasks through aliases in my Bash and after buying DevUtils, perform my beautify and minify jobs directly in the app.
Again: these choices have a real cost. Downloading a ton of data through the internet uses electricity that would have been better spent doing anything else.
I truly admire people, especially in Northern Europe, striving for self-sufficiency and sustainability. Everything else is pure waste to my eyes.
Yes, I still live in a rich capitalist region of the world. No, I don’t have a feasible alternative and I don’t live off-grid. Yet, there is a way to carve some space within the current system, by de-growing.
April 2023 update — I’ve done it: downgraded all the way back to macOS 10.14 ‘Mojave’, and it’s perfectly fine. ↩