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How to make being online BEAR-able

BEAR-able! Ha-ha! You like that, bear-heads?

Anyway, here's how to make being online bearable, with tips separated into two sections:

  1. Maintaining some semblance of privacy in the modern cyber nightmare
  2. Avoiding as much toxic online shit as possible

Privacy

Look, I'm not one of those full-on privacy guys, but I like to have a few things installed to stop Mark Zuckerberg from making "dirty dollars" every time I log on to conduct my serious online research. So here's what I consider the bare minimum:

  • Firefox: This is a fast, modern browser supported by a non-profit organisation that cares about being a good web citizen and protecting its users. The rest of the extensions I'm going to mention are for Firefox. Use it, it's great!

  • Decentraleyes: Lots of websites rely on shared web libraries to complete common tasks without re-inventing the wheel. This extension puts the most popular of those libraries on your computer so websites can access them without needing to talk to a server. That's more private by default, and it's also faster!

  • Facebook Container: Facebook tries to track you all over the web. This extension puts a fence between Facebook and the other sites you visit, so it can't follow you around and track you.

  • Disable WebRTC: If you use a VPN, you need an extension that disables WebRTC, because it allows websites to find your actual IP address from behind your VPN. If you don't use a VPN, you can skip this!

  • HTTPS Everywhere: This forces websites to use the more secure HTTPS protocol which encrypts your connection. Lots of sites do this by default, but this will catch the ones that don't!

  • uBlock Origin: Aside from blocking intrusive online ads, this extension will also block ad trackers and is light on CPU and memory usage.

Avoiding toxic online shit

Internet discourse can be awful, and it feels like it only gets worse over time. I like reading and watching stuff online, but I don't always have the mental energy to engage with, or even be exposed to, people talking shit on the internet. So, here are a few of the tricks I use to make being online more bearable:

  • Shut Up: Shut Up hides the comments on most websites. Turns out not having people's bad takes and arguments shitting up the content you consume is hugely refreshing. You can always press the button to bring them back if you are curious about what people have to say, but this is a great way to save yourself some psychic effort by default.
  • Hide Self Posts on Reddit: Using the Reddit Enhancement Suite it's possible to filter posts based on certain conditions or domains. If you filter the domain ".Self", you'll no longer see Self Posts on any Subreddit. These are the posts that don't contain a link to content, just some text from the user, and in my experience are most often the posts which are negative or toxic. I have found that hiding Self Posts means you'll no longer tend to see posts which are solely people complaining or starting arguments. You can add exceptions to this filter, which you'll probably want to do if you follow any Subreddits that focus on Self Posts, like a creative writing sub.
  • Unsubscribe from content that you no longer enjoy: This one is a behavioural change rather than a browser extension, but I feel it's worth mentioning. If certain subreddits, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels - whatever - have stopped being fun for you, it's ok to stop following them! This sounds obvious, but I think it's easy to keep up old habits, like routinely checking subreddits, even when they have stopped being entertaining or enriching. Sadly, some places eventually become negative and toxic - realising that and ducking out can do wonders for your mood. I recently purged my feeds of places where "fans" had taken to just complaining endlessly, and boy do I feel better for no longer being exposed to that stuff. Give it a try!

I hope someone finds these tips helpful!

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