"They joined Facebook to stay in touch with friends across the country, and then ended up unable to maintain an uninterrupted conversation with the friend sitting across the table." — Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism
I know, you know, we all know — there are better things to do with our time than peruse social media. Despite knowing this, I had to reel myself back from multiple digital distractions while writing this. Pandemic life over the past year certainly hasn’t helped. Reports show that in past months usage of Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms have increased significantly.
So, in light of this knowledge and this month’s theme, Simplicity, I invite you to visit (or revisit) author Cal Newport’s idea of digital minimalism with me.
According to Cal, “the cost of social media is not so much what you are doing, but what it is pushing out of your life” — and for many of us, that is high-quality leisure activities and learning how to be alone.
While always-available apps and social media have their merits, they also enable a unique form of “low quality distraction”, giving us a ready escape when we might otherwise be processing important problems, gaining insight, or practicing the lost art of simply being. Over time, this leaves us feeling impoverished.
Enter Cal’s Three Principles of Digital Minimalism:
Clutter is Costly — Which apps are critical and support your values?
Cal draws a parallel to how hoarders can point to any single item in their collection and give a reason for why that item needs to stay in their life. The same can be said for our digital lives. Each app is working to dictate how you spend your time.
Optimization Matters — How can you make technology support, rather than dictate, your schedule?
For example, if you are a member of a community that uses Facebook groups, you can exercise digital minimalism by deciding to not have the app on your phone or only check the group on Sunday and Wednesday nights.
Intentionality is Satisfying — What are ways that convenience is getting in the way of your intentions?
It’s easy to worry that adopting digital minimalism might lead to temporary inconveniences, like not being 100% up-to-date on the latest news or updates from friends. Cal argues that this is OK because the positive overall value of being intentional and taking back control of your presence far outweighs any marginal benefits gained from sporadic updates.
After revisiting digital minimalism, the question I keep returning to is:
How can technology support me, rather than dictate my attention?
I plan to use this month to identify the apps which are critical to my well-being and remove those that are just convenient. At the end of the month, I may add some non-critical apps back in, but at the very least I’d like to challenge myself to live like a digital minimalist for the rest of May — want to join me?
For those joining the Member Gathering on the 20th, we will touch base on how it’s going and share takeaways from our experiences.
To a month of less, but better...
P.S. Digital minimalism is one of many ways we explore the theme of Simplicity with our members. Download our 25-page Digital Simplicity Guide PDF for more concepts, activities, and inspiration on living a simpler yet more meaningful life.
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This article is part of our series on the theme of Simplicity.EXPLORE Simplicity →
Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.VIEW OUR THEMES →