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A lot of this resonates, Stephen. In some ways I feel like Substack may be one of the last few places on the internet that’s not yet enshittified.

A little disappointed at the implied ageism in this statement, though: “Social sites are polluted with A.I.-generated images that the untrained eyes (read: social users aged 40 and above) cannot tell are fake, generating ungodly volumes of clicks.” I’m way over 40 and I can tell; I’m sure others can too :)

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I promise, it was only poking fun.

Substack feels that way, but I’d guess it’s only a matter of time before it falls the same way.

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I guess that too, as I've been followed by at least a dozen Elon Musks and subjected to scads of "how are you doing today" DMs by other, more normal looking, accounts. I'm an old lady with a pixie avatar, ffs.

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"In some ways I feel like Substack may be one of the last few places on the internet that’s not yet enshittified."

This is exactly why I came here, Karen. I just wanted somewhere peaceful to write. Unfortunately, my second post on Substack is about the disappointment I feel that Substack is already (video creation updates) moving away from that. Following the noise, the clutter, the need to please every bleedin' scroller on the planet.

Here's the post: https://ponderousfriends.substack.com/p/substack-so-far

I feel a sense of irony that I've shoving more URLs in your face, but it's more to share my response to Substack being a safe haven!

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Sadly true. My solution to this problem so far is to avoid everything that is closely related to tech giants, or at least what I consider better alternatives:

- I use Firefox

- I use Perplexity and DuckDuckGo for search

- AdBlock and uBlock are both installed, as well a uBlacklist

- And I switched all my email and calendar away from Google

- I never had a FB account, and deleted Twitter 2 days ago

- I pay for Youtube Premium, it's a life saver.

Honestly, I rarely see an ads. The only ads are the "sponsors". I also have many other things to do in my life than consulting the media, or news. One has to be careful what they put in their mind and have the will to break free from the addiction.

For some of these, I literally see zero reason not to switch. Like using Firefox isn't going to change anything in someone's life, and DuckDuckGo actually still provide relevant responses, and no ads.

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May 1Liked by Stephen Moore

I’ll have to look into ublacklist. But i have everything else you listed but refuse to pay for youtube premium. They annoyed me with ads so I would pay to be rid of them. I’m too stubborn to give in.

I also use a VPN and tutanota email.

But is the internet fun if you have to armor yourself to use it?

Plus my bank blocked me out of my account for using a VPN.

So I’m armoured to the gills and the internet still sucks.

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"But is the internet fun if you have to armor yourself to use it?"

Exactly. I'd argue no - these are steps taken to make it bearable at best.

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I recommend Proton VPN (paid). Connect to the same server every time you need to log into your bank account. I've never had any problems with VPNs, but remember, I'm in Sweden. Since you're in Western Canada, which is similarly free and "liberal", your bank should accommodate you if you provide a consistent IP. Proton VPN includes Netshield, which fights tracking, malware, and ads. Their email service is also excellent. For me, a reliable paid VPN is essential because I am aware of potential internal threats from malicious or negligent developers - or even security or product teams. Such people often downplay the importance of privacy, but in reality, if you've ever criticized powerful entities, privacy becomes crucial. The Internet is much more enjoyable when you're well protected; it mitigates most of the creepiness. Any weirdness that happens whether I'm logged into my personal accounts or not is never a reflection of who I am; it's just an attempt at manipulation by those who want to harvest my data and my mind.

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You’re doing the good work, it is defo down to us as users to do what we can to make it a better experience.

I’m guilty of still using Google, gmail, Safari etc out of laziness of not looking for alternatives. But, do use Adblocks, don’t really use social, try to find and then repeat use trusted sources. But it’s hard to ignore the sludge.

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Hey and ProtonMail are good alternatives for e-mail, they offer importation tools so it's more or less seamless. ProtonMail also has a calendar feature. It's inferior to Google Calendar but useable.

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DuckDuckGo also has an email privacy feature that is free

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May 16·edited May 16Liked by Stephen Moore

This hits for six, Stephen.

I just finished reading Digital Liturgies by Samuel D. James. An incredible analysis of the impact of digital technology, and an offering of the response a Christian (like myself) should take to the 'Liturgies' of isolation, consumption, outrage, meaninglessnes etc. that our digital technology is driving us towards. I highly recommend it - regardless of faith in Jesus or not.

I'd like to suggest one positive action: look for the quiet.

It's a cornerstone of my site, Ponderous & Friends. I created it to share good stuff from good people that cuts through the every day "dogshit" you describe.

"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world." - Karl Barth. This is relevant, insofar as it summarises the Christian response that's driving my own work. And, that it offers an alternative. Not to wage war, but to wage peace, silence, quiet and repentance - a loaded word which actually just means "turning in the other direction".

I like Substack because I've been able to link up with a handful of writers I like. I don't like it because it still has a scrolling mechanism. Notes will end up like a pile of poop. I've no doubt. I already struggle with the incessant quote images, and LinkedIn-esque "HOW I BECAME SO SUCCESSFUL" notes. But, like you say, I'm only complicit if I go there myself. I'll stick to the quiet corners. The ones I've chosen to be in.

And, with Ponderous & Friends, create another one. As my post today announces, that's where I'll spend my time. On the actual website, where I have 20 odd posts. My substack has 2. Because even the process of sharing on Substack feels heavy, tainted by algorithms and engagement, the need for clicks and the outrage of an unknown user.

So, I encourage anyone else to find the quiet. Or, even better, to create it.

Not waging war trying to be heard in the overwhelming sludge. But, chipping away in the quiet. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a few others. Who knows. But it tastes to me like a bit of home. A bit of quiet. A bit of the early internet. Of blogs and friendships across blogs. Blogs hyping up blogs. Celebrating work and wonder. But now we've all been dragged here, kicking and screaming, because that's what the algorithms told us to do.

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Here’s to chirping away in the quiet. Sounds blissful.

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I wrote chipping, but I definitely prefer chirping.

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Haha. I’ll take either!

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THE RECIPE PAGES. THE LITERAL WORST.

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Apr 10·edited Apr 10Liked by Stephen Moore

I really think the metric and UX of public like and share counts is to blame. It’s almost fine if companies want to continue to use advertisers to generate income and metrics to secure advertisers. But to subject customers and users to judging content by it’s like and share count i think devalues the experience in a really detrimental way. Our barometer of determining with what and how we engage with content from other people should be determined by that content alone - not it’s affect on an algorithm, how much profit said content can make a company or advertisers, not the count of how engagement-bait-ey it is. If that ever happens, we might see some of the fun internet return

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Yup that's a huge factor. Everything is about views and clicks — the attention economy mind rot.

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It's worth noting that platforms have tried to deemphasise these metrics, at least of the surface, by removing them from display etc. But that backend still operates the same way, promoting what gets the most engagement. It's very unhealthy, unhelpful, and quite harmful to social discourse.

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One solution to this would be to respond to user surveys and just generally share feedback.

I work for a cybersec app, we're bulding a tool that tells you how you're seen on LinkedIn.

The founders are big privacy advocates that would ideally love not to have to track anything. If we don't track, then we don't know what works, if we don't know what works, then we risk building the wrong thing. You can't read the label from inside the bottle.

We've tried mitigating the need for tracking by sending surveys, or in-app ratings, as if to say "Help me, help you. I'm trying to respect your privacy and not track you, please tell me what features you're using, so I know what I'm doing here."

Unfortunately, people rarely answer these feedback prompts.

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Also resonate with this. In fact, I think I’m starting to have a paradigm shift. I’m starting to think of what my life would look like without it. I mourn the loss, but it’s clear to me we aren’t going to win it back. I’m starting to engage in art, activities, outside of the internet - save a few sites and services, like this one. (Gosh do I miss blogs and forums!)

If anything the internet is no longer the information super highway. It is now the services highway. That’s what they wanted it to become, I guess, and that’s what it is. Life is going to change now and I guess we just have to adjust and live our lives outside of how it used to be.

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Services highway. Damn. That’s a good way to look at it.

Your first paragraph speaks to me — I play sports, play instruments, make furniture, and you know, try to touch the grass now and then, and it’s great. Disconnecting from the internet is the only power you have to stop it taking over you.

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May 4Liked by Stephen Moore

Recipe pages are written that way for SEO. They use the H2s/content to rank higher. If they just threw up a recipe, they wouldn’t rank. Google owns us all.

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Yeah, it’s a good example of Google setting what has to happen — at the detriment of the internet experience — and helpless bloggers having to follow suit.

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Apr 26·edited Apr 26Liked by Stephen Moore

Much of the dysfunction would be tamed if every site had sensible filters (the more powerful the better). That wide-eyed influencer spouting nonsense through their title and thumbnail? Gone. Ragebait general news? Gone. Everything mentioning Elon Musk? You get it. I filter HN now and it is much better.

When the common space gets too polluted, users must be empowered to moderate it for their own use. People are the best curators. And there's potential value in this curation for discovery too.

Then there's the issue of durability. The only safe place is your local storage. We need a standard to make web sites and content into proper self-contained objects. Content-addressed, versioned, resharable. No more brokenness like on archive.org (I adore it btw), just one click to get you an article or an entire interactive blog or wiki that you can archive and redistribute through a(n overlay) network of your choice. Many of the necessary components exist and there's no technical reasons for this not to work.

Maybe you could also host distributed forums or services this way. This together with the ability to self-moderate might help us back on track.

There's a lot more to envision about this new web (or internet in general), but I'll leave it at that. It's gonna be a basket of measures. As long as we nerds still have it in us we can rebuild from the ashes. Take a deep breath; I think things can become like they were, if we make it through this valley.

There's a psychological aspect to this as well. Are we still the same that we used to be? Can we become them again and do we want to? That, everyone will have to answer for themselves.

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Some great thoughts in this. Agree that user control, or users taking the time to exercise what control they have, is the only way we really have left to make our internet experience more enjoyable. I have taken a shine to the mute/block buttons on the few platforms I use, and have even found myself using it nice and early on Substack's Notes, trying to mold that to my liking before the algorithm takes its grip.

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You nailed it with the points about ads, clickbait, and the whole attention economy nonsense. It's like we've traded in the magic of exploration and connection for a cheap dopamine hit. We need more voices like yours calling out the BS and reminding us of what the internet could be if we got our priorities straight.

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Thanks Martin! It's not only us users who are guilty - it's those who control it too. I just read a piece by Ed Zitron, which called out the fact that tech giants are looting the internet. The ad revenues are insane, and it's driven the internet to become everything but customer value centric.

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Meta & Bytedance (Tik Tok) both recorded profit of $40 billion. I repeat this is profit not revenue. Case closed.

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Apr 12Liked by Stephen Moore

Yeah, this about sums it up! It always makes me think of the "Dead Internet Theory" with the rise of bots and AI...

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And we're only at the beginning of this wave of A.I.

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Apr 11Liked by Stephen Moore

Love/hate relationship with the internet. It is a dopamine machine

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Apr 8Liked by Stephen Moore

So true. At best it's pure labor to be on the internet. At worst - which, with one or two exceptions like Substack, it usually is- it's hell.

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that reddit quote describes the internet so perfectly! i miss being excited to log on!!! i think the internet has gone from being something we to have a break from life and explore, now we use real life as a break from the internet lol

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Right?

I loved it. Though it also made me kinda sad.

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Great way to put it

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I'm currently taking an HTML based web design class because I am fed up with Meta's latest AI policies and intend on starting my own website in order to abandon Instagram as much as possible. Unfortunately, my generation uses Instagram as communication more than texting, so I feel obligated to keep it to stay in the loop. But at what cost? Instagram has destroyed my attention span and made me vulnerable to my baser emotions, and it is psychologically designed to wring out your emotions like a rag for the most engagement/metrics possible. Kids like me who were raised on the Internet in the 2010's can barely even fathom an internet without the algorithms, doom scrolling, rage bait, paywalls, insidious advertisements, and porn bots....

I think if there is to be change on the Internet, it has to come from within. There has to be digital revolution. We must overthrow our oppressors, and build a new digital landscape.

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Revolution is a big ask when the majority of users either don't realise any of this, or even many who do just don't care. "That's the price of entry" thinking. I can't see it changing unless these platforms blow themselves up in some way and leave the door open for something new.

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I think as time goes on, especially with the unethical practices of AI that are ongoing, I think more and more unethical practices of the big internet mega-corporations are going to come to light. But I do agree that a lot of users are ignorant/apathetic, so it might not be a “revolution of the people” so much as journalists, academics, and lawsuits forging a path through unknown territory.

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The internet used to be so much fun! The recipe page comment made me laugh! People could confess to murder in the endless paragraphs before the recipe, I wouldn't know.

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Jun 5Liked by Stephen Moore

This resonates so much. I've started describing myself as "social media sober", because if I so much as open an Instagram feed, it will ruin my next two or three days. Invariably. Same goes for Facebook, and I've long since left X. Even on Substack or Medium, I only let myself check notifications at the beginning or end of each day, because it takes so little from these dopamine drip mechanisms to derail the habits of mind that, for me, lead to well-being.

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Wise. Less is more.

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