|Adblock Plus screenshot|
An easy way to simplify life is to remove one's name from catalog lists using services like TrustedID (formerly Catalog Choice), which I've recommended before. Having done so years ago—in addition to going paperless with bills—my mailbox downstairs sits mostly empty, free of much of the usual paper spam, reducing tree waste as well as time spent ripping my address off unwanted mailings. Online, if an inbox is overstuffed with newsletters, coupons, and sales offers, reduce the marketing stream by clicking the unsubscribe link at the end of unwanted promotional e-mails. And to prevent such things in the first place, don't give out an e-mail address, phone number, or zip code unless absolutely required, and if required, remember to click the little opt-out box. Another excellent way to free oneself from loud, bright, flashy advertising while surfing the digital world is Adblock Plus.
Some readers may already know about Adblock Plus, in which case, skip this post. But if not, prepare to change one's life in a small, enormous way. Adblock Plus is a free open-source extension added to a browser with one click, which then magically in the background saves a person from most of the obnoxious, obtrusive ads on the Internet. I forget just how ugly the Web can be until I find myself using somebody else's computer, like the one at work, and am reminded of the beauty and value of Adblock Plus. If I sound like I'm being paid here to rave, I'm not. Adblock Plus is that good.
On the sly, I added it to the browser at work the other day and realized I haven't fully been taking advantage of all Adblock Plus offers. So this morning I added the extension to my backup browser, Chrome, as well as updating my primary Firefox extension so that not only am I blocking ads but malware, social media buttons, and site tracking.
I am not yet savvy (or perhaps motivated) enough to be using even softcore Internet-tracking erasure methods like Tor. Citizens are all being spied on by the NSA as Snowden, Assange, and others risk their reputations and lives proving and repeating, but private companies track even more, foot soldiers for the government—and one day replacing said government. Our cell phones track our every physical move. Our web cams are watching us. The puppeteers behind the Internet track and record for safekeeping not only what we buy but who we are, who we love, what we value, what we will die for, and what we won't. Americans are complicit in the increasing lack of privacy forecast long ago by science fiction writers like George Orwell and Philip K. Dick. When—not if but when—this farcical democratic republic collapses and the U.S. government devolves into martial law, the first thing to be done is smash the smartphone and ditch the personal computer. But we're not there yet. Until everything crashes around us, there will be Adblock Plus, tidying up the online landscape, masking the chaos beneath.