My how things change.
When I first started offering cute little tech resolutions to download into the New Year, I was eager, plugged in, fully charged, and inspired to greet 2015 and all of its app-splosions, 4G gewgaws, and Internet-of-Things-things with gusto. Lost in a fog of what I can now only nostalgically describe as Obaptimism, I saw the technofuture as still having something to sell rather than put in hock. It was a time when anyone with a fair credit rating was rolling down the grassy slope of Silicon Valley. Just look at this [expletive]:
“I am resolved to try Bitcoin this year,” I wrote in 2015. Didn’t. Even though it was “only” US $951 at the time. Oops. (Stupid, stupid, stupid!)
“This year’s biggest resolution is to enjoy the spoils of our connected era by looking up from my laptop and pulling my face away from my phone,” I wrote in awe of the Internet of Things. LOL. Oh my goodness, no.
Three years later it’s as though we’ve all passed through some cheap flatscreen into a fictional episode of a show produced from a trashed rough draft. Along the way, my character arc got all dark: My interest in the next Hot New App is scraping against nil unless we’re at Chili’s. My enthusiasm for responsive thermostats and home hubs has soured into a paranoid certainty that Facebook can surveil my dreams. My data-gobbling love of video chat has tightened into a vow of text-based encryption. I’m entering an analog phase that feels like an allergic reaction. When I see a drone, I look for a stone.
So where does that leave me when it comes to tech resolutions for 2018? This year it’s more about correcting errors, undoing actions, deleting drives, locking down, and laying low.
This year I feel like tracking less. Whether that means less conscious counting of steps or miles, or less unconscious plotting of walking routes and errand destinations, or fewer tags revealing location and time. 2017 was a year that restored my sense of info to the notion of “personal info.” The Internet’s early allure was its ethereal reality — an aura that’s lost when we bolt it too firmly to real life. This year I resolve to detach a little, choose an air of mystery over a detailed history, let the cloud get cloudier.
IS NOTHING SACRED?
This year I’m going to get way better about my passwords, which like most American passwords are terrible. Passwords can be complex and still be easy to remember if you employ one of many free password managers on the market — like LastPass, Dashlane, and Roboform — or by opting for old-school mnemonics or codes (the Diceware method, for instance). The only hard part is remembering to change it frequently. On the password front, I’m also done with fingerprint recognition systems like Touch ID until such time as I work in a CIA forensics laboratory (and am in a love triangle with my gruff but lovable partner and his prying ex-wife) and the technology no longer feels unfinished and weird.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
I’m also keeping a tighter leash on my connections this coming year. When using public Internet or accessing a random AirBnb’s WiFi network, or when simply pondering the Internet sans net neutrality protections, it’s worth considering a VPN (Virtual Private Network) like Cactus VPN, F-Secure, ExpressVPN, or IPVanish. VPNs let you surf anonymously, which isn’t as sketchy an amenity as it once may have sounded. Much like when you leave the house in the real world, you can go where you please without your home address getting dragged into it. I also don’t need anyone to know how obsessed I am with Laura Dern and Baron Davis’s budding love. (Whoops.)
This might seem counter to the gist of the list, but this year I’ll be moving toward more secure payments — which means away from plastic. Just this morning I received three consecutive texts alerting me to the wild ride a clone of my debit card was taking in and out of an ATM in San Antonio. These days it’s easier to have your account information physically swiped from your card than it is to have your card physically swiped. And while this isn’t the blurb where I slouch repentantly back toward cryptocurrency (watch this space), it is where I resolve to shift primarily to encrypted digital payment services across the board.
Finally, with another election coming down the pike in 2018, I think most of us have no choice but to simply engage with social media in a different, more mindful, less divisive way this year. The shape these changes take remains to be seen, but knowing that faraway forces are swaying what we see, and having witnessed the wrath of a weaponized Web, the lot of us had better find ways to ensure we’re not so easily caught in it.Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MBrodeur.