Mindful Technology Use & Removing Fear- Mindful Tech Part 1

Originally published on my Patreon account in 2018.

Using technology mindfully isn’t something we normally address until something forces us to open our eyes to our technology habits and beliefs. 

We get hacked. Our identity is stolen. Our government shuts down websites it doesn’t like. A hard drive dies and years of priceless children’s photos are lost. 

You get the idea. We’ve all spent time contemplating what we should have done with our data during a crisis. 

But how often do we step back and think about our “digital hygiene” before shit hits the fan? For many folks, the answer is never— or next to never. 

I’m asking everyone reading this to change never to regularly— or often.  

Now, take that same lack of mindful engagement with technology-- or lack thereof-- and pair it up with fear. Fear and overwhelm. Vulnerability. Frustration. Hopelessness. 

All of these emotions are directly correlated with the disconnect of mindful technology use. When we don’t understand the threat to our from tech, we fear everything. Every news story of a hack, malware attack, phishing scheme or massive privacy breach leaves us feeling violated and vulnerable. 

I’m here to tell you that this fear is not necessary. For the most part, if people took one Sunday afternoon and explored their technology habits and personal security -- on a very basic level-- some degree of fear would be replaced by awareness. Which in time turns into power. 

Yes. We can restore our power over our digital lives through mindful tech engagement. By UNDERSTANDING what personal operational security (opsec) is and how to improve it, we can slowly remove the specter of harmful violations through tech and replace it with power and awareness. 

I get it, understanding this stuff is overwhelming and uncomfortable. I hear this all the time and most people simply allow themselves to be taken advantage of and violated because they refuse to learn something new or even think about how their technology use can become a weapon to be used against them. 

What I see that truly breaks my heart are the business owners I work with in my web dev work that have such a deep seated fear or aversion to technology that they allow it to bankrupt or severely limit the earning potential of their business. And I see this debilitating fear on a daily basis.

This is the first article in a series about mindful tech use. My goal here isn’t to scare everyone into locking down their devices and retreating from the world. Far from it. 

My goal is to empower my readers with knowledge and tools to take back their peace of mind and protect themselves against individuals, corporations and governments who seek to weaponize data and sell it to the highest bidder or do irreparable harm to an individual. 

For 90% of people, embracing the basics of personal opsec will remove the risk of being attacked by a hacker seeking to steal information. If we’re all sitting in a coffeeshop and a hacker wants to steal some data to go buy a golden unicorn horn off a black market Alibaba in some far flung land and he hits someone’s computer that’s got basic protections in place, he’ll simply move onto the next unsuspecting soul whose wired into the public wifi without a VPN with a gmail password that’s his dog’s name. 

Get it? We’re simply making it harder for the everyday script-kiddie (young wanna be hackers looking to do silly things or steal the basics) to take advantage of us.

Now, if you’re a journalist, activist or dissident, you’ve already done some basic opsec. So, this will be a review and in a future series, I’ll address a more aggressive opsec when your threat model includes an adversary with unlimited resources-- like a nation state or a Russian mobster. Put simply, if you fit this description and you HAVEN’T addressed your opsec, go to eff.org immediately and begin doing all the things. Like all of them. Right. Now. 

But, for most of my readers, we’re having a simpler, less dire conversation. We’re talking about increasing your individual level of opsec so that you can move through your digital world in a mindful, protected and empowered manner. 

Don’t worry, it’s not that bad. Honestly, mindful tech use is the first step to restoring peace of mind and deliberate technology use. It will help you engage with the world a little differently and it will remove the fear and anxiety of navigating a rapidly shifting, internet driven world. Mindful tech engagement will also give you more space in your life— to breath and simply be. 

As the last two years have shown us, protecting your data and understanding opsec can also help us protect the fragile threads of democracy that powerful entities are shattering right now-- by weaponizing our data and using it against us. We can begin to take a stand by engaging with tech in a different way and telling the fuckbooks and the twitters of the world that we will not be manipulated by bots, our data will not be used to feed us absurd false news and our data is not for sale to a nation state looking to install any moronic dictatorial puppet it sees fit. 

Let’s all just take a deep breathe, take control of our opsec and tell these evil fuckers to piss off. 

Mindfully, of course.