The Quiet Tech Toolkit

One concept which changed my relationship to the internet is the idea that, fundamentally, it is a pull medium. When you visit a website or an app, you are “pulling” stuff to you.

This means that with some care, we can be guilt-free about being selective on what we pull, and enjoy the benefits of the Internet (knowledge, curation, etc.) without the downsides (malicious ads, algorithmic feeds and general screaming.)

In this post I’ll give you a couple of tricks and links to tools which, hopefully, will make your stay on the Internet just that little bit healthier and quieter.

Make your New Tab page empty

Likely, right now your New Tab page shows you the websites you use the most. And likely, the websites you use the most are where most of the screaming happens (e.g. social media.) Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t use social media, but I am advocating for being more mindful and intentional about using it.

If I intend to open Twitter, then I will. But I don’t need to be reminded about its existence every time I see a new tab. Throughout the day we open new tabs maybe dozens of times, and each one of them is a reminder to “just check out Twitter/Facebook.” Let’s remove that.

If you use Chrome, this extension will do the trick. It’ll show a completely blank page as your new page. If you use Firefox, type about:preferences#home into your address bar and uncheck everything there.

The empty New Tab page is just something I take for granted now, and a simple trick which makes you more intentional about how you use the web.

Hide algorithmic feeds

How many times have you found yourself scrolling mindlessly through a feed, only to then “snap back” to reality to immediately close it? This is intentional, and brilliant minds are working tirelessly to improve the algorithms used to show you things you may like, sprinkled with ads.

The biggest culprit for me is YouTube, but I’m sure you have yours. Speaking from experience, blocking the website outright doesn’t work. It’s also a net negative, since many of those websites with “feeds” (e.g. Reddit/Twitter/YouTube) actually have content that’s worthwhile. The solution is to simply hide the main “feed” while keeping the rest of the site open.

Hiding feeds is possible with some crafty use of ad blockers (more on them later,) but the extension “Hide Feed” does that well and with only one click. The free version allows you to block the feed of one website, and that for me was enough since YouTube is my beast.

Block ads

Advertising is a perfectly legitimate way to let people know about your product. The product would then improve those people’s lives, resulting in a net positive.

Sadly, this is not how advertising works today on the Internet. On the privacy side, ads are used to actively track your activity across websites, apps, and devices. But even purely on a practical level, ads are resource hogs. They use up significant resources on your device, be it processor of battery power. And with ad blockers, we can get rid of all of them.

On the desktop

uBlockOrigin is the standard ad-blocking extension for your browser. Just install it and forget it. For Safari, look into AdGuard.

On mobile

If you’re on iOS, block ads on Safari with the AdGuard app. Then block them in apps using the AdGuard DNS profile. If you’re on Android, install uBlockOrigin from Firefox’s Extensions menu to block ads on the browser, and use the same AdGuard DNS trick as before for apps.

Empty your home screen

This is what my home screen has looked like since about 2016:

This is again about bringing back intentionality to your tech use. If you want to use an app you can (swipe down and start typing its name,) but this way you are not reminded of [App]’s existence every time you unlock your phone. It’s a bit painful at first, but going app-less on the home screen is a one-way road: you won’t want to go back.

Disable all non-message, non-phone call notifications

This is also going to hurt at first, but it’ll save you hundreds of hours you were going to spend “just checking the time.” The rule is one and simple: if it doesn’t require an immediate action from me, it doesn’t make it into my notifications. This can also from inside an app itself. For instance, Instagram messages make it, but likes don’t. Telegram personal messages make it, channels don’t. And so on.

If you have a tip you use to make tech quieter, please do share it with me at lorenzo [at] this website’s domain and I will add it in. I’m one hundred percent sure there is something out there I haven’t even considered.