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Good Enough

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This month’s IndieWeb Carnival topic, "Good enough", is very, very interesting, and I feel like I could write an entire series based on this simple prompt. But since I’m traveling, I’ll try to take it easy and "only" write a two-part post. I hope it will be good enough, hehe.

Life isn’t good enough

Enshittification is everywhere these days. It’s not just about giant web platforms milking their monopoly even if it means the users have a terrible experience. It’s not just about the quality of our clothes going down even when we don’t buy fast fashion.

It just feels like businesses don’t serve their customers anymore. Like products aren’t built to last anymore. Like we’re not expected to understand and fix our issues on what we own, when we know how important being able to repair and maintain our stuff is.

I won’t talk about this too much, it’s just an intro, and many others have talked about it better than I have.

What I’d like to discuss is one factor that justifies why things aren’t good enough anymore, and one thing where it would be nice to just do "good enough".

The problem of quantity

We are living in a deluge of low-quality items.

But the problem here might not be that they’re low quality. The problem might be the "deluge" aspect.

You might want to check out the amazing OSMAnd app (slightly confusing at the beginning, but you get used to it, I promise). It’s fully customizable, has offline access, and you can access the premium version in three ways: by paying, by getting the app from Fdroid instead of the Play store, or by making regular contributions to OpenStreetMap. This app has been my faithful companion during my Europe2024 trip and I love its values and business model.

Now, if I were to use an enshittified maps app, I’d be extremely annoyed when it gets laggy because it contains information I don’t want. To be fair, I get annoyed at OSMAnd because it doesn’t have restaurant reviews and often lacks opening hours for shops. And then I think of my dad, who is a proud user of printed-out IGN maps while I make myself a .gpx trace for my upcoming hike and start whining when it doesn’t recognize a trail I wanted to get. OSMAnd is less simple and sometimes less complete (although not on everything – I use the ATM and water fountain locators all the time!) than Google Maps, but I know I can trust the information that’s in there and I get to do what I want with it. It’s good enough, even without some of the bells and whistles of some of the bigger apps.

I write the foreign words I learn in a small notebook, then check a dictionary. It’s good enough.

In the past couple of years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy fewer clothes, and learn to take care of them properly. My go-to, in France, is the brand Loom, which makes wonderful durable clothes and sends you maintenance tutorials with them. I realized, with time, that I don’t need to wash my jeans every time I wear them (in fact, it damages them), and that while we’re at it, one or two jeans are enough for my lifestyle (a lifestyle in which I wear shorts when temperature is above 15 degrees and soft fluffy trousers five times a week, that is). This means that I buy one pair of jeans that will go well with all my clothes (hard!), that can be adjusted to my frame and maintained well (because I only bought one pair, so the cost is justified), and that I will hopefully either keep it for at least 10 years or replace it with another size.

I feel like we’ve been sued to abundance, in the past few years. And I don’t want to be an asshole, and I’m specifically talking about people who can afford to be minimalists. For us, the solution should be simple: if we treat everything like an investment, it makes sense to focus on quality and to have something good enough.

I’m not only talking about money investments, by the way. There are several types of investments:

  • Money investments: I buy something expensive but durable
  • Time investment: I wait until I find something that I know will be good enough before buying a compromise solution
  • Habit investment: I use OSMAnd until I get used to all the little icons
  • Skill investment: I learn to sew, I learn to build features for my favourite apps.

Of course, all of these go together. Time investment is usually the incompressible one (I can pay someone to add a feature to an app, or I can get into the habit of using a product, or I can gain a skill to maintain what I have, but all of these will take time), the others vary more.

But in any case: I believe that the first obstacle, if not the main one, to "good enough" is that we expect a lot more, in terms of quantities and in terms of features, of what we interact with.

When good enough doesn’t exist: ourselves

My first reaction when I saw the topic for the blog post was: "good enough? Does anyone feel good enough these days?"

From Sara’s entry to the carnival, I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who thought of this.

We expect so much of ourselves.

I’m not a huge enthusiast for the whole tradwife and/or "we used to become blacksmiths because daddy was a blacksmith and we never questioned it" because, oof, miserable. But also, I get the appeal.

We grow up in a world of protestant work ethics – bastardized in countries like mine that aren’t protestant, sure, but even if it’s not just as intense as in protestant countries, I feel it.

In French schools, 20 out of 20 is almost an impossible grade. When I was in university, our teacher told us "your maximum grade is 14, because above that means that you’re a specialist and if you have 20 it means you’re the most knowledgeable person in the world on the topic of the test". This is the mindset we grow up in, and I have a strong opinion that it’s also the reason why French people underestimate their English skills to the point that they’ll refuse to practice their English and enact their belief.

I remember being twenty years old and tracking my steps and my sleep and my mood and my social interactions because I wanted to be the best I could be. I mean, I even had a whole blog dedicated to it. While it’s not the exact topic of my blog, I was obsessed with the quantified self movement (and it still is very present in my life today).

Where I live, either you do short, professional trade studies, or you need a masters’. I haven’t met many people who had a 3-year degree and a job they wanted. There’s a diploma inflation.

And of course, there’s the whole personal branding movement and the mess that is going on the Internet only to show the best side of yourself, to package yourself as a product that hopefully will please masses that shouldn’t even know we exist.

I stopped running Réussir Mes Etudes after 10 years, in part because the most-visited article, by far, was "how to be first in my class". I wrote so much about wellbeing, about remembering that grades are grades and everything else may matter more, about finding a career you enjoy, but it always came back to it. How to be the first in my class. Because that’s where the acceptable line is.

Today, I wish "good enough" was applied more often to people, and less often to products and services.

We all deserve better.

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