In late high school, I got my first smartphone. Being the novelty seeker I was, I downloaded every tool that seemed interesting. They enticed me with the prospect of connection, management, curation, control, and preparedness. If I had a problem, there was an app for that. Facing the problems of managing tasks, communication, and documentation for my high school robotics team only fed the fire. By graduation in 2014, I had signed up for accounts with nearly 200 apps and websites (not to mention the Zapier and IFTTT integrations between these things).

A couple of years after high school, this habit became wearisome. I realized it had been a sort of materialist/humanist/modernist trance in which technology would be my penultimate (if not ultimate) salvation, escalating me to a plane without problems and inconveniences. What was I thinking?

This experience of obsession, then disillusionment, cultivated a sort of calm contentment around my use of technology. Computers could be simple tools again, rather than omni-connected, omni-automated, omni-engulfing lenses.

Linux, and free (as in freedom) software in general, is great for this philosophy of computing. The majority of free software is just there waiting for you to intentionally derive utility from it, rather than jumping out and throttling your brain for the sake of engagement. Computers can be there when we need them and out-of-mind when they’re not.

I certainly missed the intentionality of sitting down at an enormous, clunky, desktop computer and thinking “Wow! It’s time to compute!.” The stupendousness of it all has worn off in a decade of perpetual human-computer interaction, so I would encourage anyone to step back and regain some wonder.