Online Mental Hygiene, Part 2: How To Stay Objective Online?

Updated on July 13th 2023

April 4th 2022

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  • Browsing tools such as Google not only help us work, learn, and function in general but also, shape our (political) views.

  • The sentiment on the Internet is overly negative which influences mood and opinions of users, and leads to increasing polarization in outlook on life between Democrats and Republicans.

  • In this article, we provide a number of tips for how to stay objective online.It all depends on the privacy and settings of the browsing machine and other online tools that you choose to use. So, don’t be fooled by bots and AI and see the world as it is!

Online Mental Hygiene 1.0.1: Who Is The Real Villain Online?

Today, the world is getting polarized, and online sentiment is getting increasingly negative. The two professional groups put in a particularly bad light online are politicians and entrepreneurs. But who deserves bad press in fact? Who is engineering the Internet in a way to divide people? Perhaps it is journalists and hackers who work full-time to influence your opinions and put you against others.

“Don’t Be Evil” — How Did Google’s Moral Standards Change Over Time? For Google, You Are a Consumer.

For many years, “Don’t be evil” used to be the official company motto of Google. In 2015, the motto was changed to “Do the right thing.” Why? Because in the current market conditions, not being evil was no longer an option.

Google has become a trillion-dollar corporation, and as such, it must maximize its profits to stay afloat. Therefore, treats its users like nothing else than consumers.

“To Google” means “to filter:” every Googler sees the world differently. Did you know that Google picks and chooses what it does and doesn’t show you? Google uses AI to build a specific profile on you built over time. The AI then uses that information to push you toward buying the products they advertise.

Google literally has a vested interest in distracting you as much as possible for you to buy as much as possible propping themselves up as the greatest advertisement market penetrator.

Google Collects All The Possible Information About You And Tries To Predict Your Future Needs.

The recent Hollywood flick, “Don’t Look Up,” features the character of Peter Isherwell, the CEO of a fictional corporation called BASH — a parody of Google and Apple. In the movie, BASH uses the data of the users of their devices for instance to predict their medical future, including the circumstances of their death.

Unfortunately, this portrayal of Google is not that far off from the truth. Google indeed can store all your browsing history, extract and store your medical data, and use machine learning to figure out your current and possible future medical needs.

They don’t even hide the fact — quite the opposite: they openly publish the results of their predictive models in medical and machine learning literature! So, do you want a third party with trillion-dollar capital to keep on betting on when and how you will die?

How Does Google Manipulate Our Reality, Including Our Political Views?

But Google is not only interested in your consumer behaviors and medical past and future. It also actively influences your political views. We have all heard about the Cambridge Analytica scandal starring Facebook, but do you know that Google also has a major impact on American politics?

Hard to believe? Check out this article with information from Gregory Coppola who was working as a Senior Engineer at Google, and Robert Epstein, a psychologist and journalist. In the article, you will find a timeline of political biases entering the workplace along with the questions of censorship and what is “appropriate” to show people.

A search around the internet can reveal a vast number of photos that exist comparing suggested search queries between Google and other search engines. What you will see is that Google has actively suppressed people from searching for certain things.

See this example from Robert Epstein, coming from the American presidential campaign in 2016. In general, Google News search results are politically biased (which can be summarized as Google showing you more of what you’ve seen before).

Unfortunately, these manipulative strategies have far-reaching consequences for society. Research shows that in America, Democrats and Republicans have been diverging in views and growing apart for the past 20 years.

The view of the opposite side of the political spectrum is also becoming more and more negative. To a large extent, this process is stimulated by Google-induced biases.

To sum up, we are social beings who need to have a sense of belonging. The biases created by commercial online browsers and privately owned social media led to a new kind of online tribalism, in which groups of users clutter together and further polarize their views in a never-ending reinforcement loop.

Our Minds Work Against Us While Googling.

According to this Ardorseo article, the number of Google searches per day could be well over 3 billion and is extremely likely to have increased since that number was estimated in 2012. What a wide scope of influence!

To understand the effects these changes have we must first understand that our human minds while the most advanced organic creation on the planet, are far from perfect.

We are social beings, and while we as a species have integrated the Internet, numbers have played a strange and invisible role. We see a search suggestion and have a subconscious leap of logic to say that many people must be using those search terms.

Likewise, the opposite is true. If we google a politician’s name expecting to see information about the recent scandal they participated in, and it is not there, then we may be more prone to make a subconscious leap in logic.

Namely, we might conclude that the scandal must not be that big of a deal, or that our understanding that this is a big scandal, is false. It is known as the social proof bias, and it is one of the multiple cognitive biases that we are prone to.

Browsing Is Addictive.

Most users don’t give much thought to what is shown to them vs hidden and why. It makes sense; it’s easier to just search for what you want to know and put no more thought into it than needed.

Why waste the extra thinking power? Just give me the link I want, and let it be done right? This lack of second thought will be taken advantage of with a system like Google’s.

Well, that leads us to our second problem. Which is quick access to extremely large amounts of information combined with the human presupposition to believe what we hear.

Throughout human history, the majority of us never read, or we had to make an active effort to get to the source of information: take a walk to a library or place of information. Now it’s all with the lift of an arm and a few thumb taps.

Our body and energy systems love this optimization, but our brains were not ready for it. We modern people using technology now have services like Tik Tok! that blast so many videos at you per minute all giving you a little hit of dopamine and making you feel great. You feel great… but that is exactly what addiction is.

The media addiction has had a very negative effect on society when it comes to consuming garbage media on sites like Youtube, Tik Tok!, Facebook, 4chan, and adult content websites. The internet is very similar to a drug and we must take responsibility for ourselves, be aware and act in accordance with what is healthy for us and our personal development.

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How To Protect Yourself From Google’s Influence and Browse In a Healthy Way?

So, what is healthy for us and our personal development? Well, first, we should be aware of the forces trying to influence our own thoughts and beliefs such as the Google search suggestion censorship mentioned earlier. Once we are aware of that, we can respond.

1. Choose an Alternative Search Engine.

First, we would like to offer you some alternatives to Google services and encourage you to find or build your own alternatives as well. 

If you use Google at all times, it will collect and store enough information about you to get a full picture of who you are, what you desire from life, what you dream of, what diseases you suffer from, and what your guilty pleasures are, et cetera. Don’t let that happen!

So, we would like to suggest an alternate search engine, such as Duckduckgo or BraveThese search engines are based on privacy. They don’t track or record any information about you, and they are not connected in any way with Google Ad services. They are also available on mobile devices for both iOS and Android operating systems. 

Maybe most importantly, these browsers display unbiased search engine results. This means that you will probably get different search results than from the Google browser, and indeed, it can be less tailored and convenient for you. Yet still, in the long run, keeping private will pay off for you and your personal development as well as your professional development.

If you need to go back to Google now and then for specific types of searches, that’s probably safe for you just as long as you begin to minimize it more and more as your primary search engine for everything.

Of course, there are more than just two possible alternate search engines — other options include Ecosia, Dogpile, WolframAlpha, Gigablast, Startpage, and Qwant.

Next to the alternative search engines, there are also new, AI-powered solutions that will allow you to keep in touch with the developments in your field. Namely, tools such as Deeep can provide you a new web-based news feed in your discipline of interest curated using AI.

2. Modify Your Google Settings.

You might have noticed that after setting a new Google account, you are always asked to choose your personal settings — and you are given a proposed set of settings. Namely, Google tries to convince you to choose the default settings as it allows them to “customize” or “optimize” your user experience.

Most users choose the suggested, convenient set without giving it too much thought. However, the trade-off is as follows. The less prior information about you, the fewer options the browser has to tailor the search results to your needs BUT at the same time, the more of your information browsing and personal information stays confidential.

So, take a while to review the full list of personal settings and think for yourself: is this option really necessary for me? Perhaps it is better to give up on 10% of my comfort of browsing online in the name of my long-term privacy and objectivity.

3. Manage Your Cookies.

Another thing we can do is manage our cookies. Cookies are little bits of data that sites store your data primarily for ease of use. But you should be aware that a simple system, can be a susceptible system. Cookies store data like items in a cart. They can include your login usernames and passwords, and other personal information.

Thankfully, it is rather simple to clear out your cookies. Check out this article from Norton, a leading antivirus company, to learn more about how to clear your cookies on the most widely used internet browsers on both PC, Mac OX, and mobile devices.

4. Protect Your Data With The Use of a Proxy or a VPN.

Another thing we can do to browse closer to reality and not what is simply shown to us is to protect your data, which we talked much more in detail about in the article “Mental Hygiene Online vol. 1: How To Stay Safe Online And Why Is It Important For Your Professional Development?

To put it shortly, it is a great idea to use a proxy (like Hidester) or preferably a VPN (like ExpressVPN or NordVPN), use good password management, use Incognito or private browsing modes, use two-factor identification whenever possible, and avoid phishing scams.

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Experiment and Work Out Your Own Opinion!

Would you like to check to what extent Google manipulates your personal search results? It’s easy! You just need to open the Google browser and browse for any politically loaded search term such as, for example, “the current economic situation.” 

Then, open DuckDuckGo, search for the same and compare. You might be surprised by what you see!

Conclusion: How To Browse Responsibly and Stay Objective Online? And, Why Is This Important For Your Safety, Mental Health, and Professional Development?

Remember that Google’s impact on your opinions might cause you a lot of emotional distress. After all, its impact on the view of reality turns users into highly opinionated, radical individuals… and as a result, it turns them against each other.

Browsing online is quite like a Nervo game of sorts. You try to (1) Complete your tasks and achieve your goals, (2) Maintain your peace of mind. While the whole rest of the world tries to (1) Possess your time and attention, (2) Get your data and make money on you, (3) Frighten you or piss you off.

You should also take into account that staying objective, impartial, and not bending under propaganda from the mass media are one of the most sought qualities of responsible leaders today.

In your professional career, you will gain many more opportunities on your career path, and get promoted much faster if you can break out from what corporations want you to think and believe, but rather, work out your own opinions in an unconstrained way.

Although big tech companies are trying their best to sway hearts and minds toward their questionable efforts and causes, there are many things you can do to make sure you don’t see a cherry-picked internet designed to control what you do, and rather see a more unbiased and unfiltered internet — better reflective of reality. So, please take these ideas and use them as much as possible to browse the internet more safely and less influenced.

And, the last question remains: how well will Google’s bots index this article?

To find more information on how to not only stay objective online but also stay safe online, please take a look at our previous article “Online Mental Hygiene, Part 1: How To Stay Safe Online And Why Is It Important For Your Professional Development?

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Please cite as:

Wright, D., Bielczyk, N. (2022, April 4th). Online Mental Hygiene, Part 2: How To Stay Objective Online? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/online-mental-hygiene-vol-2-how-to-stay-objective-online/

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