Yaya's Manifesto I: The Unexpected Life
I. The Unexpected Life or "Why Removing Advertising is the Way Forward"
Real, authentic, genuine, earnest, beautiful, complex, honest, experiential, emotional
These are words that I (and I think others) would use to describe our relationships and experiences in life, or at least our ideal way of having them.
The experience of eating ice cream on a sunny day, reading a book, or forging a relationship, can be beautiful experiences that impact us for years to come.
But the internet can be that way as well; a person could look up the history of ice cream, read a book online, or build a relationship with someone in a game, and while many would argue that these are merely substitutions, I am not. The internet, especially, gives us the ability to connect with others and find community, and for many of us lacking those communities or people nearby, that can be a real gift.
What I am making the case for, is that the internet is different from real life, and damaging to us, because it is not unexpected,and advertising is the problem.
When I go to Google, for example, I know exactly the results which will come up in the search. I also know which ads will be shown to me based on my demographics and search history, and I also know which sites I will click on; because millions of dollars are being spent to make me ignore the others and do just that.
Everything on the internet is known, and paid for, and all the same.
We use the same few sites, the same main social media platforms, the same forums, the same news. As a caveat; even if we are on different sides of the political spectrum, or have different interests, it all still ends up being the same-style (usually ad-supported) platforms, albeit with different rhetoric.
Real life (or the ideal real life) is the complete opposite.
You never know how a friend will respond to something you said,they have complex histories and relationships with both you and others,how could you know? You might go to a skate rink and the rink is closed,what do you do then? The date you were feeling conflicted about ended up being one of the best nights of your life,how do you explain that?
Real life gives us questions to ponder and explore,things to thing about even after the event has passed.
The internet gives us answers.
II. Correcting the Behavior or "If you Build it, They Will Come"
A first impulse might be to rage against the machine; "why is the internet this way?", or to decide to be abstinent and never use it again. While I admire your passion this might be one of the instances in which correcting our use of the internet should come before our paradigm shift.
A comparison can be made to depression in that many depressed people (myself included) need to begin to take actions to take them out of depression. They need to make the plans to see friends, decide to shower, and force themselves to find a hobby, even if they do not want to and feel like there is no point and get no enjoyment out of the activity. Sometimes stopping a negative behavior, whether it be an addiction, a lack of action, or a pattern with a friend, can then influence the experience, rather than the other way around.
So, let's start to correct our use of the internet, and then maybe our experience will then change as a result? Worth a try!
III. Removing Advertising or "Walking Towards a Non-Profit and User-Centric Web"
I know, I know, we have all heard this before, but please I promise this will be different,so give me a chance.
Advertising is the main roadblock to having a positive internet experience. When we see ads we know that we are the product, that our internet history is not private, and that the majority of the internet is made to manipulate us into doing what billion-dollar companies want us to do. So, what should we do?
While many columns would give the classic "get an ad-blocker" advice, I would propose that we should try instead to avoid as many sites with ads as possible. This is a switch in the approach and paradigm; instead of using ad-based sites, why do we not instead avoid them? Perhaps then, if enough people take part, we can cause a drop in those ad-companies' revenues and make them retreat from whence they came.
With this approach, we are taking the mindset that any site which has advertisements is not working for our, or the user's, best interest.
Let's begin by finding a non-commercial search engine that respects our privacy and gives us quality results.
The search engine I have found to be best for this approach is Kagi is an ad-free user-centric search engine which is fast, private, and delivers quality results. It does this while simultaneously allowing you to stumble on more unknown sites and articles, thus allowing for a deeper dive into the net (and the "old-web") which is being hidden and sent into oblivion by these major profit-based tech companies.
The next biggest issue is often social media. Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok, while wonderful for many people, are also all ad-supported. Remember that if something is supported by ads, it is objectively not being made for the user,so we should find an alternative.
The best alternative I have found is Neocities. Neocities allows you to create your own personal site, and then connect you to other sites that you may (or may not) find stimulating. You can then create your own social network of those sites, join webrings which help you jump from one site to the other, and follow people's updates. The community is also very supportive, which, while not the topic of this essay, can help to mitigate the proven negative psychological effects of commercial social media. Also, there are no likes, favorites, or upvotes,you just follow what you want to follow and let the creator know you like their site, which then encourages the creator to keep making content. If you find that you are missing your friends, perhaps encourage them to build sites of their own? You can then create your own online community with a mix of both real life and online friends.
News. Oh boy.
It is very hard these days to find news that is ad-free, unbiased, and factual, but that is what we must strive for.
For breaking news, The Associated Press or Reuters tend to provide factual and timely headlines. For more detailed news, I have found both Legible News and The New Paper, to be good options which provide news without clickbait titles or ads.
For music, email, videos, and movies, it would be best to support the creators by paying and downloading the content directly and then hosting it on your own server, but I cannot deny the ease of online services. Many of these services have ad-free options and although it would be ideal not to support these companies, this can be a great alternative as you transition away from them altogether.
Finally, our ad-free internet is not perfect, and we will have to navigate sites with ads. I would recommend installing an ad-blocker (I know I said I wouldn't!), and I recommend uBlock origin, though there are many options.
For all these suggestions I am sure that there are probably better alternatives that I hope to discover, but for now these are solid options.
IV. Conclusion or "It Is Possible"
My hope is that by removing advertising we can begin to find our way towards a user-centered web. This is the start of us creating our own internet. An internet "Of the people, By the people, For the people". If we have the capability too, let's support these organizations and sites that are allowing us to make this all possible, while also putting in the time and effort to create this web experience for ourselves and others.
Let's educate others about what these profit-based commercial companies are out to do, and let's tear down the façade that they are here for our benefit. It is only possible if we come together,if we unite,in this mission for a people's internet.
The internet can be a beautiful place,an unknown place,a place in which exploration and discovery is around every corner. A place where you can connect with others and play and create together. A place for unfiltered creative self-expression. A place that is de-monetized and of which the reward for exploration, connection, and creation, is the experience itself. So, what do you say? Are you in?
Many of these non-commercial alternatives offset their costs by having memberships instead. I would like to note that paying those fees is not possible for everyone, and this is further indicative of a larger class divide on the internet, which I would like to approach in a future essay.
I have no sponsorships or affiliations with any of the sites listed below.