It’s time to end an abusive relationship between me and Discord.
Since 2016, I had been a common user of Discord, a new up and coming chat application at the time focused on video games and communicating in large scale groups. Discord’s main advertising plan was that Discord was a drop-in replacement for Skype and Slack - both known (and mostly proprietary) communication applications used for talking to others over the Internet.
I was introduced to Discord by friends at the time, who proceeded to abandon previous communication methods and use it as their main chat application. As the months and years passed, I slowly stopped being a fan of the app. I was tired of it.
Before Discord, I used IRC (Internet Relay Chat) servers and Skype. Discord heavily took features from IRC, like channel permissions, flags, and
#channels. I love using IRC, I would never want to give it up.
What went wrong
Discord is often targeted by friends in my group for using Electron - a framework that uses Google’s Chromium rendering engine and Node.JS combined to make apps designed from web technologies and make them as psuedo-native apps. Every time you install an Electron app, you’re installing a copy of Chromium, with an app that uses only HTML/CSS for it’s menu design.
Why are these problems? If you install an application made with programming languages like C or Java that are meant to be run natively, the applications obey and comply with the theme and the design of the user’s operating system. Discord did not do this, and it’s design of huge black blocks with circular icons with a mix of purple was something I was not a fan of.
A blog post by Casper Beyer notes this and says:
Electron applications just don’t integrate with the operating system the way a native application is expected to do, is this not the reason that why we vowed to kill Flash and the Air Runtime in the first place?
…and I totally agree with this! Flash had history and was fun for 9 year old me. But Flash had the issues of being dependent on a web browser or native container like Electron and having Adobe (and the former Macromedia) have a total grip on all web content as they were using their proprietary format(s) many years ago.
Having a copy of the chromium engine for every single Electron app uses up excessive amounts of storage space and RAM. Running these app(s) also means running a Chromium instance, which is often criticised for it’s high RAM usage.
Drew DeVault has wrote about shitty electron applications. Please see his blog post as this post is about Discord, not Electron.
Stress inducing alerts and media
The design of Discord’s notification and alerting system is stressful and caused me to have constact fixation on the application. Discord using a ‘beep’, a blink, a notification, AND an inside-app alert (the red circle with a message number) is a constant stream of being told to read a message, when it may not even be relative to you. Discord’s use of the ping system is efficient but also it’s
@everyone feature is a bad one, as it can cause stress and need to read more. I have sometimes opened Discord just to read endless streams of messages. I honestly could have skipped them. It is similar to Facebook and Twitter’s ‘infinite scrolling’ which locks a user to one page to constantly read and be fed text and content.
Discord’s CTO also admits to running a process logger in the application. It cannot be turned off. [source]
Even if a company claims to use it for non-harmful reasons, if you don’t think it should have this, don’t use the app. I don’t want a chat application knowing the apps I run. It’s not needed.
A specific problem I witnessed myself
During usage of Discord, a server I was in became a victim of a ‘raid’ which is a common offence of spamming large servers en masse. However, during a raid, I was without warning, or consent, private messaged illegal child pornography and I ended up reporting it to the staff via email and to the assumed jurisdiction(s) and law enforcement. Despite sending an email with the URL of the illegal content, the User ID, and Message/Channel ID(s), Discord never even messaged me back on my email, and I was left with only a default ‘We’ll speak to you soon :^)’ email.
This one incident was enough to make me consider uninstalling the app immediately. No communication from staff for something so major and concerning should be a top priority, however, it ended up being forgotten in a stream of emails. I constantly saw Discord getting press for it’s ‘FBI investigation’ or it’s babyfur sitation relating to a supposed double standard by a content moderator. For a moment, the meme seemed real.
I said goodbye to Discord in the end of August of 2020 and officially deleted my main account permanently. I have not had major activity or touched the app since. This was heavily sponsored by friends who created an IRC network, to move us all back and away from Discord. I am so happy to be back!
Removing Discord removed the final tumour from my lock into proprietary communicaiton and messaging. My friends now communicate with me on IRC or using other means. We also use TeamSpeak as our voice chat, which is not fully free - but we are only on our first steps.
How to mitigate Discord, step by step.
- Reduce your server and group count where possible, use Discord only for friends.
- Do not pay for Discord Nitro services. It is not worth the amount of money for an emoji and a number change.
- Reduce and mute notifications for servers and group chats.
- Max your privacy settings and reduce your telemetry settings by turning all data collection options off.
- Only use Discord on certain devices, don’t use it when you’re outside for example.
- Use a PGP key to encrypt messages between others.
- Use a custom client that improves your privacy and optimises data usage. For desktop computers, there is Ripcord (source-available) and CutTheCord for Android devices (Open source!).
- Consider trying new and free communication apps as a group between your friends. (like Matrix, XMPP, or IRC).
- Try and use the new apps where possible, and slowly transition over (if it doesn’t work, try a different app).
- Create an account deletion plan, example below:
- Use Discord History Tracker (open source) to save and scan all of your older discord messages locally.
- Use Undiscord (also open source) to delete every discord message you ever sent - make sure if you posted anything sensitive in a place you left, go back and rejoin it to delete from there. Discord will not be able to read deleted messages.
- Delete your account.
Take your control back over your computer. It holds NO POWER over you anymore.