Saturday, October 18, 2014

Goodbye, Google!

Untangling yourself from the evil web of Google is harder than, well, untangling yourself from Facebook.   This is not by accident, but design.

One of the (unintended) genius things about Facebook was that it turned out to be a compulsive addiction.   People got onto Facebook, and most of them have to check it daily, hourly, or even every few minutes, to see what is on their "feed".   "Feed" by the way is what they give to cows.  To fatten them up to slaughter.

Facebook, I think, stumbled into this, and has since enhanced the feature.   As I noted in my Social Networking Seasickness posting, it is hard to see exactly what is on your Facebook page, as they use an algorithm to decide what you get to see, and if you dig around you can find other postings.   But some things appear on your "feed"  and then disappear after a time, so it encourages you to constantly check Facebook (via your smart phone "app" of course!) all the time, lest you "miss something".

It really is fucking brilliant, if you think about it - it has enslaved an entire generation to their cell phones, the Internet, and one website.   And the results are pretty frightening.   "Social Media" has become the number one source of misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies, as any daily perusal of will attest.   People on "Social Media" talk only to like-minded people, so if one posts a fraudulent video depicting Obama giving a speech that promotes Nazism, well, they all tend to believe it.

This shit is evil beyond belief, and if I swear it is because I am mad about it.   Each generation, it seems, is enticed by the siren song of some new form of media - and herded off a cliff as a result.   When newspaper chains were formed in the late 1800's, people could be made to believe most outlandish things.  William Randolph Hearst is alleged to have said, "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war" - with regard to the Spanish-American war.   The point of the alleged quote is that Hearst, owning a lion's share of the nation's newspapers, could shape public opinion as he chose - enough to get the U.S. to declare a war, if he wanted to.  And he wanted to, just to sell newspapers.

The radio generation of the 1920's followed suit by falling into line behind "the Great Dictators" of Europe, who used radio broadcasts (and newsreels) to inflict their ideology on entire nations.  Even Roosevelt used his "fireside chats" to get him elected an unprecedented four terms.  He understood the power of this new medium and how to use it.   He was no fool - he knew that he had to use radio to get into power and stay there, if nothing else, for the good of the country.

Television brought us the first televised war, Vietnam, and the media in that war was cleverly manipulated to turn public opinion against the war.   By the time of Operation Desert Storm, the Pentagon had a better handle on controlling the media, and provided nice sound-bite ready video clips of "smart bombs" surgically excising bad guys with no collateral damage.

Today, it is the Internet, and in particular, social media, that has the brains of so many people utterly enslaved.   Many people get their news and information 100% from Social Media - where rumors and innuendo are the same common currency as the truth.   It is, to say the least, very scary.  

"You furnish me the YouTube Videos, I've furnish the war." - That is what Hearst would say today, if he were a Social Media titan.

But, once again, I digress.   Where was I?  Oh, yea, Google.

Google hasn't been sitting by quietly through all of this.   They sit on the sidelines and look at Facebook and wish they bought it when it was small.    That kind of mind control is priceless!   They tried, of course, to create their own social network, Google Plus, but that was viewed as the Zune of Social Networking.   Since no one signed up, Google made it mandatory that you have a Google Plus account if you want to use their other services (gmail, blogger, YouTube, Google Drive, etc.).   And it is annoying as shit and one reason I want to leave Googleworld for good.

Now, when you log into Gmail, you get this "status update" widget that tells you if someone commented on the same YouTube video that you commented on six years ago.   The only way to put a stop to this, it seems, is to click on each notification and then click "mute post".   It is annoying as all get out.

And even if you set all your settings on Google Plus to "private" you constantly get asked to join someone's circle, or worse yet, other people can add you to their circle (whatever that means) whether you like it or not.   As with Facebook, there is no "dislike", "unfriend", or "despise" button.    Actually, on Facebook, you can unfriend people - and people cannot be your "friend" unless you agree to.  On Google Plus, you can be added to someone's "circle" (jerk?) without your permission.   It is like being violated on a very small scale.

But alas, it is hard to untangle yourself from the web of Google.   Facebook is a little easier to quit.  All you have to do is erase all your content manually, and close the account.   That doesn't mean, of course, that Facebook doesn't keep all your content backed up somewhere.  That is the kind of level of creepy that raised my hackles about Facebook in the first place - and why I quit.   Of course, quitting Facebook does generate hostility from some folks - other "Facebookers" who wonder why you aren't part of their "feed" anymore.   So you run the risk of pissing off some friends, but they are just "Facebook friends" and not real friends, anyway, so the risk is pretty small.

Google, on the other hand is a little bit stickier.   When you log into one Google product, they start following you and tracking you.  You send an e-mail to a friend or client with the word "car" in it, and ads will appear on your Google pages for cars.   They not only track what sites you are going to, what words you are searching, but also what you write and what you e-mail.  This is far scarier than Facebook.

It also, I believe, slows down your internet connection.   While traveling recently, we used a WiFi hotspot, which gets 4G service, when it is available.   When not, it gets 3G, or 2G, or even "G" on occasion.  In "G" mode, it is about as slow as the old 56K modems of yore.  And loading Gmail takes forever (unless you load the stripped "HTML" version, which is missing most features).   Oddly enough, loading Hotmail takes less time for some reason.   Google has so much software tracking what you do that it bombs out slow connections.   And increasingly, it seems that Google products crash Firefox.   Google helpfully suggests that I use Google Chrome instead.   Funny how that works.

So, over the next year or so, I am going to try to wean myself from the tentacles of the Google Empire.  And it won't be easy, as almost everything you do on the Internet seems to touch or interact with Google.   Living without Facebook is a piece of cake compared to not touching Google at all on the Internet.

To completely disentangle myself from Google, I have to do the following:

  1. Uninstall Google Drive
  2. Uninstall Google Chrome
  3. Move e-mail to commercial e-mail account (Cost: about $12 - $25 a year)
  4. Migrate web page away from Google Pages
  5. Move blog from Google Blogger to other host (or erase)
  6. Move videos from Google YouTube to other site (or erase)
  7. Move Google Picasaweb photos to other site (or erase)
  8. Switch to another online search engine
  9. Close Google Plus Account
  10. Close Google Account.

 And that is a lot to do.  I am only on step 3 at the moment.   And this is one reason why I tell people never to store things in the "cloud".  The cloud can evaporate and leave you with nothing, as happened to me with my WebShots account - dozens of carefully tended photo albums with captions and comments, all dumped in the trash without so much as a moment's notice - and no way to easily move them elsewhere.  You rely too much on these online services, and when they go evil, well, you are stuck.

But these experiences only reinforce in me the desire to "unplug" from the media - television, social media, newspapers, etc.   They all hawk bad political ideas, consumerism, lies, outright lies, rumors, innuendo, and slander.  Even getting a basic weather report is dicey, even from the weather channel.

And the fact that I am sort of "stuck" using Google all the time makes me hate it even more.   I don't like the idea that I am beholden to one website or one service provider.   The Internet should be all about choices, not everything funneling into one company's websites.

So, off to another brave experiment.  Can you use the Internet without interfacing with those evil bastards at Google (and they are evil now, despite their "don't be evil" slogan)?

It will be interesting to try.