Becoming a digital minimalist…

I have written many times about Minimalism which describes movements in various forms of art and design where the work is set out to expose the essence through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts.

When some months ago I heard about Digital Minimalism I decided to learn more about this philosophy, created by Cal Newport, which is about how we use technology. By adopting this viewpoint we optimize our online time on a small number of carefully selected activities that strongly support things we value, and then happily miss out on everything else. I knew about this author and computer science professor since 2013 from his splendid talk titled “Follow Your Passion Is Bad Advice” where he states that passion is found by first building a rare and valuable talent and using it to take control of our career path.

Anyhow, Mr. Newport defines digital minimalism as follows:

“Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life”.

In his book “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” the cited author outlines four ways to rediscover non-digital activities you love that will support your newfound digital autonomy.

  1. Spend Time Alone: solitude—both physical and mental—is important for thinking clearly.
  2. Don’t Click Like: social media and digital communication have become digital versions of fast food.
  3. Reclaim Leisure: by taking time for analog tasks we can break free from the FOMO (“fear of missing out”) of digital technologies.
  4. Join the Attention Resistance: we don’t have to use all the features on our smartphone or be constantly connected to social media.

So this summer I decided to start a social-media detox and digital declutter because by training ourselves to resist the temptation of online distraction, both the quantity and quality of our work can improve considerably. This process has three steps:

    1. Spend 30 days on a break from optional technologies in your life (removing apps from your smartphone for example).
    2. Rediscover hobbies, activities, and behaviors you enjoy and find meaningful.
    3. After 30 days reintroduce optional technologies intentionally.

I first deleted all my social media APPs from my iPhone and didn’t connect to any of them in four weeks. After this first month I realized that Twitter and Instagram were not giving any value to my life and decided to close my profiles, and continued deleting more APPs that I barely used from my smartphone. In this 2 months since I started this process I have read 6 books, designed a logo for a new non-profit organization I’m member of, taken a week long surf class, been 15 days crossfit training, skated the streets of my city several times, spent countless hours in the beach and the swimming pool with the kids, taken many walks through the forest next to our home, and been camping twice in the south of France with my family. And now, after 2 months, I have finally started to write in this blog again and sketched some very useful ideas for my PhD at Google Drive.

It is interesting to note that Problematic Social Media Use, a term to describe social media addiction, is a proposed form of psychological or behavioral dependence on digital media and smartphone overuse. When we perform a Social Media Detox we realize that:

  1. Social media is a false reality: we can fall into despair when we can’t seem to keep up with the supposed lives of our friends and followers, even to the point of depression.
  2. Social media encourages narcissism: it’s all about your own satisfaction and gratification, and as you chase more and more likes, you can get swallowed up in yourself.
  3. Social media promotes echo chambers: the nature of social media means you can follow those who are like you and ignore those who aren’t, which can turn you into a close-minded person.
  4. Social media is a privacy risk: you’d be surprised how much malicious users can find out about you simply through your social media history.
  5. Social media sucks up time: A visit to Facebook or Twitter can turn into two hours of mindless browsing instead of spending that time on a creative hobby, trying a new sport, or in personal growth.

In conclusion, Digital Minimalism isn’t about throwing out all your technology, but instead is about reclaiming our control over what we do let into your life. Because as writer and content marketer Jory MacKay writes: “in order to do our best work and live a purposeful life, we need to be intentional with how we spend our time”… because living a simpler life in this modern world is as easy as not giving a damn about all those likes and notifications!


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