A couple of years ago when I made the decision to start living a lesser life I began to think of what I’d need to do throughout my life to make this change. I realized that a big part of this process would involve a number of changes to the physical portion of my life.
For two years now I’ve been evaluating my life as far as the physical and material items that I own are concerned. Before I purchase anything new for my life I take a long time (often months) to evaluate if I need whatever it is I’m thinking of buying. I consider if I have something in my life already that fills the need that I may have and I look closely into if there is a way for me to not purchase something physical but supplement my need with borrowing or renting the equivalent if at all possible.
As a result over time I’ve purchased fewer physical books, started to live a car free life, have made fewer phone calls and have had a dwindling paper trail around my home where my records are kept. The transitions I’ve been making have been liberating but they certainly haven’t been without their issues and consequences.
From the Physical to the Digital
One of the largest consequences of reducing the number of physical things in one’s life is the greater reliance on the equivalent in the digital world. As I’ve purchased fewer physical books I subscribed to more online feeds. As I’ve accumulated fewer physical paper records my digital collection of PDFs has increased; this trend has been the same for most aspects of my digital life. This phenomenon, in conjunction with the ever growing number of online services and social networks, has forced me to take some time to re-consider the services I’m subscribed to and the ones I actively use to better understand what is needed and what is not.
The ‘Problem’ with Google
When I first started using Google products, probably beginning in 2000, I did so really loving the products and wanting to pay for using them and for their development. I went so far at one point to email Google and ask how I could pay on a yearly basis for some of their core services (email, calendar and reader) and if there was a way for me to pay an additional premium to get services without all of the ads. I never received a response.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve decided to ‘jump ship’ from Google.
This choice wasn’t made because I disagree with what they are doing or where they might be going, simply put, I made this decision because I’ve realized I’m not making use of most of the services overall and the services I do use are actually duplicating the function of other ones I prefer to use.
To keep a long story short, I realized that the only service of Google’s that I was using I wasn’t able to duplicate or fulfil using other /tools I already had access to is that of Google Reader. Mail & Docs I’ve either been using other alternatives 2 for a while or have been wanting to switch for some time 3 and I never got onto the Google+ bandwagon or a variety of the other popular offerings Google has.
So as for Google Reader, I’m keeping that around to allow for me to sync my feeds across devices, using Reeder as my RSS program of choice. In addition, there are a few Analytics and Feedburner accounts that are still active, but given that I don’t ever check the stats they keep, and honestly wouldn’t know or care what the numbers mean, I might be dropping those soon as well.
Where I’m At
Over time I’ve accumulated a number of Google accounts, signing up for them as I created new projects, filled various roles or wanted to try something new. With each new account and each new service/feature added by Google I found myself relying less and less on them and simply being more and more distracted by all of the new “shiny” things.
As part of trying to live a lesser life I’m trying to make more conscious decisions about the things I have in my life, both in the physical and digital worlds. I dropped my Facebook account as it wasn’t providing value for me and upon re-evaluation of the Google services I was and wasn’t using I realized that other than Reader there wasn’t a need to be subscribed to them for much longer.
So with my reduction of things in my physical life comes a reduction of things in my digital life. I’ve found that a person can accumulate things quicker in the digital world than in the physical world and not realize it until it is ‘too late’. In the physical world everything is there for us to see, touch and interact with, whereas in the digital world the more we accumulate the more we can sweep under a virtual ‘carpet’ to put it out of mind.
I’m making the active choice to do some house cleaning regardless of products and services and this just happens to begin with Google.
- In comparison to what the policies are actually stipulating compared to what they have said/done in the past. ↩
- About 90% of the documents I collaborate on with others are stored in Dropbox and this, more than any other service/tool, is engrained in my life. ↩
- I’m referring to a switch in mail providers to fastmail.fm. While I’m happy with Gmail and the service it provides me I’ve been on a kick to have more control over my data, whether that be files, images or emails, and have wanted to move my email to a system where I’m paying for a certain level of security and ownership of my information/data. This choice actually has nothing to do with the fantastic service that Google offers. I think Gmail, along with the other Google services, are great services for most any user, including myself. ↩