Jiwon's Alcove

Two Years of Living Without

Jan 13, 2023

Manuel Moreal has a series of blog posts on the year of living without, in which he temporarily eliminates aspects of his life to see how it goes. In a way, I've already lived a year without in 2022, and would like to continue with this trend in 2023.

2022: A Year Without Animal Products

In 2022, I turned vegan. I was ethically movitated after watching this interview with Earthling Ed and the Dominion documentary.

I made the connection that animal exploitation is inevitable when non-human animals are treated as property, not individuals. Furthermore, the book Conceptual Breakthroughs in Ethology and Animal Behavior provided scientific evidence that non-human animals possess emotions and have personalities.

The change was swift, and surprisingly easy. Upon changing my mind, I gave myself a short vegetarian transition period. This was during finals season, so I stocked up on vegan and vegetarian frozen meals; those bean burritos had it coming! During the transition period, I switched my meals one by one to the vegan alternatives.

I learned how to use nutritional yeast, make cream with cashew nuts, how to supplement nutrients, use coconut milk for fatty recipes, marinate or crisp up tofu, use bean curds, and many more techniques that I never thought of using when I was an omnivore.

The biggest upside of a vegan lifestyle, other than the alignment of my values and my actions, has been a revitalized interest and joy in cooking. Limitations bring creativity, after all.

2023: A Year Without Optional Websites?

Last month, I made a change on a whim that turned out to be immensely positive: I quit browsing Reddit and YouTube.

I was motivated by the simple reason that I felt worse after browsing these websites. While both platforms occasionally provide genuinely educational content, the political wars, the infinite flood of content™ and the almighty algorithm™'s invisible hand to maximize my eyeball hours became too much.

Much like going vegan, the change was easier than expected. After a week, I found that I missed them exactly zero percent of the time. A useful technique was to be mindful of how terrible I'd feel if I were to doomscroll. This experience reminds me of that research where mindfulness meditation was shown to be an effective method to quit smoking.

I'd like to continue this trend and try living without almost no optional websites in 2023. Of course, there are websites that are critical to work, such as GitHub, Slack, Overleaf, Gmail, Google Scholar...as well as government and banking sites. It would be stupid to ban those. By "optional" I mean anything else, typically serving entertainment: social media, video streaming, podcasts, blogs, and news.

Here are my specific rules, which I am already mostly following:

  1. Use local flat files for computing where possible.
  2. Zero exceptions allowed for Reddit.
  3. YouTube is okay so as long as it is for work.
  4. Manually checking a small list of quality content creators is okay.
  5. Web feeds - algorithmic, email newsletters, and RSS - are not okay.
  6. Optional web browsing to aid socializing is okay.
  7. Gaming healthily, as I have been, is okay.
  8. Keep up with the world through slow - monthly or quarterly - publications instead of the internet.
  9. Read books as the default replacement activity.
  10. No electronics on bed or at bedtime.

I will update if there is a major change, and once every few months otherwise.