Mapping the stages of intimacy to levels of digital security

I’m trying to Marie Kondo my digital life, and I’m starting first with messaging apps. tl;dr: It’s really hard to figure out what needs to go. I tried to create a decision framework to help me, and I ultimately ended up with a map that (for the most part) links level of friendship to level of security and privacy. Funny, right? Ok, well, I think it’s funny.

Reddit DM / Discord: Anonymous strangers that know you better than some of the people around you — you are who you want to be, and they are who you need them to be

Twitter DM: Strangers that you may collide with out and about in San Francisco. The more prolific they are, the more it *feels* like you know them. So there you are, the both of you standing in line for ice cream at Bi-Rite, and you say hi only to realize they have no idea who you are. Hi, I’m awkward!

Instagram DM: Strangers, mostly, and, acquaintances becoming strangers, your relationship held by a delicate thread of responding to each other’s Instagram stories with emojis

Messenger: Acquaintances, mostly. Why do people still use Messenger?

WhatsApp: Friends, mostly

iMessage: Friends that have remained friends because you’ve been in the same group thread forever. And Mom, who recently discovered emojis. 🥰💫🎉

Signal: Good friends, which include fellow activists, whose connection to you cannot be described in words. Includes friends that have upgraded to better friend status because they think you’re annoying, but like you enough to listen to you preach about Whatsapp metadata, and, uh, Facebook. Also includes your significant other, who you hope will one day respond to your eggplant emoji. He won’t, but you’ll keep trying anyway, and Signal is your best bet.

Privacy is also more than just encryption. As you design your personal threat model, consider physical risks, which include social engineering. Triple check that you trust the recipient or you could unwittingly become Internet content.

(Thanks Ryan for consenting to my shenanigans!)

Telegram: Best of best friends. You convinced two of them to join during one of your fits about encrypted messaging, privacy, and big Tech. They won’t switch to Signal because they love you enough to not give in to all your demands.

Anyway, that exercise basically got me nowhere. Back to the whiteboard. For now, I’ll just stick to asking myself what sparks joy as I stare at the 20-30 tabs that I have open at any given time.

While you’re here, here are a few related reads floating around in my head: