Avalon's Thoughts

Goodbye Google and Facebook

So, at some point in 2018 I realized I was just.. done with the companies that were mining for my information, and selling it off to anyone who wanted it. I found the practices of Facebook, and to a lesser extent Google, just repulsive. At the same time.. SO much of my life was wrapped up in these services. I knew it was not going to be easy to get out. I’d given over to full Google buy in a year or two prior, even going so far as to purchase Google’s flagship phone and join the Google Fi plan. But as they removed “Don’t be Evil” from the forfront of their company’s goals, they just no longer felt worthy of my trust.

First, I knew I was addicted to Facebook, and I had seen how bad it was for my well being. On the few and far between occasions where I was away from my phone and my connection to their network, I felt so much better, happier and more content with my life. I knew they actively build their platform to keep me hooked, giving me dopamine hits every time someone put a pointless like on a post of mine, and I was seeing either people pointing out how great their lives were, or people yelling about the state of the world, both of which are honestly depressing.

Initially I couldn’t bring myself to kill off my account, I had too many contacts that I interacted with primarily over fb messenger, and I depended on facebook to tell me when my friends and family were celebrating their birthdays!

I decided to find a way to fix those problems. The first thing I had to do was acknowledge that none of this change was going to happen all at once, that it was going to take time and a fair amount of energy to make happen and that I wasn’t going to allow myself to beat myself up for not being out. I decided to go through my account and find as many of my friends and family’s phone numbers, email addresses, and birthdays. But where would I put them? I didn’t want to keep using my gmail account, and I had heard how difficult it was to move what should have been simple vCard files out. I was lucky and Russ was willing to host a Nextcloud instance for anyone in our circus who was willing to trust him with their data. I trust Russ much more than I trust any big company. lol So I set up a calendar and an Address book through that. I knew I wanted to move away from Google, so I set up a new email address too, There are many privacy centric email providers, I chose to use posteo.de, because I like how they do NOT want my data, they admit to the level of access to it they have, and they have some fantastic buisiness practices that I was happy to support. They do charge 1 Euro per month, but when I saw how they use it, I was all

Fry "Shut up and take my money" Meme gif".

So I set up my new email, and Russ helped me set up my nextcloud account. Next on my todo list was to start moving away from dependancies on GooglePlay. I was aware that LineageOS exited, an alternate to Google’s Android, but I used a LOT of google apps. Rather than trying to switch over everything at once, which I knew would overwhelm me, I simply downloaded fdroid to my existing Android set up, and initially didn’t even delete any of my existing apps. I could still check fb, I still could check my gmail, I could still do everything I had before, but now I had a new email, with the k9 app to read it, downloaded through an open source source. I slowly started integrating information into my new address book, and started reaching out to start conversations with friends and family via email and text. I sent an email with my gmail to let people know to expect an email from a new address that was my new prefered email, and explained that text or email were better ways to reach me than facebook. When I finally got through my friend’s list, I deleted both the facebook and fb messenger apps. I didn’t delete my account, I felt like I still needed to keep that open more or less ‘just in case’ Not everyone managed to switch, I had many, many interactions where people said “Didn’t you get my facebook message?” or “I sent it to your Gmail” but slowly, people started to adopt these alternate ways to contact me.

While I try not to spend too much time on my phone, I like having a silly phone game to play when I need a little break from people. So I knew I needed to find at least one game I ejoyed in the fdroid repository. I found several :) I try to only have one on my phone at a time, but I’ve greatly enjoyed “Poland can into space”, “DroidZebra”, “Minesweeper”, “Frozen Bubble”, “Mighty Knight”, and I currently play a “2048” port. And every time I take another look in the F-droid repository, there are more games to chose from!

I Downloaded Mastalab for my Mastodon account, giving me a much more fufilling social media fix, as I quickly found people who were posting about interesting projects, reasoned conversations, and who were opening discussions rather than just making statements to the world. I found that Simpletask worked well for my todo.txt based todo list, NewPipe got me youtube videos without all the tracking. I’m hoping to eventually be more on peertube than youtube, but peertube was still a baby project during this migration. My nextcloud install was from Fdroid rather than Play, and I found that Markor did a great job handling text files for me. I slowly weened myself off of apps that depended on Play services. While I paced myself, it was still a surprisingly short time later that I realized I felt like I would be ok without Play. I had put all the F-droid apps on the front screen of my phone, and de-prioritiesed Play dependent apps by putting them on a second or third screen over.

But before I could move away from Google Play services, and on to a different OS, I was going to have to find a different phone provider, because as I mentioned, I was running Google Fi!

I found that for me, Ting provided exactly what I needed, phone service, low cost, and no required app! They do offer one, but they have a very mobile friendly web interface and I’ve never had any problems with them.

So after doing that research, I made the switch to Ting, which was extremely straightforward and simple. I purchased a new sim card online and as soon as it arrived I got it set up in a jiffy. I think I kept a hold of my Fi sim for a week before feeling so completely comfortable with Ting that I went ahead and symbolically broke the old sim in half and tossing the pieces in the trash.

Now I was ready to switch to Lineage. I was still using 2 Play-depedant apps, my banking app and my podcast app, but I figured I’d find another way to play my podcasts, and I could export a list of them from the app. And, well, oldschool banking would be fine. I can still log in and check my balances on a mobile browser.

Swapping my OS took some prep work, downloading some new programs, but following this guide was super easy. I had no real complications. It just worked. Shoutout to howtogeek for creating a guide that actually started on step 0 and didn’t assume I knew how to use any of the tools, it really made a difference. Worth noting, I am actually one of those people who reads directions, and often reads them 2 or three times to make sure I really understand what I am doing before I do a thing, when I can find them, so I really appreciate some well written instructions.

Downloading my apps and configuring my set up was just as finicky as it is any time you have to get a new phone. I didn’t have the simplicity that both google and apple try to achieve of automagically giving you everything you had last time you logged in, but it wasn’t difficult.

I stopped using my gmail, but I still haven’t deleted it, I’ll check in on it every month or so, to make sure that I didn’t fail to redirect something critical. I am hoping to delete my account soon, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet, I have a lot of data stored there I’d like to get downloaded first. (expect either an update to this post or a further post on that topic here in the future)

However!

I finally reached a point where I realized I did want to properly delete my facebook account! I just got tired of people not thinking and just shooting me a message on fb messenger. Or an invite on fb to a party or event. I realized that leaving that connection open was allowing my friends and family to feed facebook with more data about me by sending it my way. I just didn’t like that. So I logged in, and posted that I’d be off the site in a week, reminded my friends and family to text me to keep in touch, and then spent a few days downloading images I cared about and then exactly 7 days later, I pressed that “Delete my account” button. It’s only been a few days since that decision, and I don’t regret it as of right now. I’ll see how I feel as time goes on, but honestly.. I have had so many more rewarding interactions with people since pulling back from the service, I expect that to just continue. If anyone out there is looking for help de-googling or getting out of facebook, let me know! I’m happy to send resources or advice.