In this day and age, our digital devices are more and more present and we spend more time on social media than ever. You’ve probably heard of the term ‘digital detox’, a term that’s becoming more popular these days because some of us are feeling overwhelmed by the hyperconnectedness of our time.
The birth of a concept
After releasing his book Deep Work, in which he advocates for focused, uninterrupted work free from distraction, author Cal Newport was flooded with questions from his readers. Deep Work is about professional life, but readers were searching for solutions in their personal lives. They communicated their overwhelm caused by the prevalence of technology and social media and their inability to free themselves from these many distractions. Newport, a digital hermit who decided not to partake in the social media craze, started to research our relationship with technology and came up with a solution : digital minimalism.
In his brand new book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Newport explores the consequences of the latest rise of technology and social media. The results are staggering. As one of the many examples in the book, he notes that anxiety symptoms are exploding all the records among adolescents and adults using smartphones. He also notes that our society shifted from meaningful relationships to mere connection with the advent of text messages, replacing old school one-on-one conversations.
The answer : digital minimalism
To offset the many negative side effects of technology and social media, Newport proposes a simple solution : digital minimalism. The idea is to reduce our use of technology in favor of meaningful activities and relationships. To do so, he suggests to try a digital declutter; for 30 days, eliminate all non-essential use of technology. To succeed, make sure you have a plan in place and a list of meaningful activities that you can do with your new found spare time. After the 30 days, reintegrate only the activities that really add value to your life.
One of the things Newport suggests to improve our relationship with social media is to remove all social media apps from our phone. At first I was sceptic, but I gave it a try. So far, I reached for my phone to check Facebook a good dozen times since last week, but I have not caved and reinstalled the app. I notice that I spend much more time reading during my commute now that I don’t reach for my phone to scroll Facebook mindlessly. This simple habit will help me reach my goal of reading 100 books this year.
Another interesting concept from the book is solitude deprivation. Newport explains that, now that we are always connected in some way, we seldom experience free time alone with our thoughts. I realize that the moment I’m alone or bored, I reach for my phone and hit the Facebook icon. We lose touch with our internal dialogue and anxiety bubbles up under the surface. We don’t have the occasion to process our thoughts and feelings anymore. I notice that this is a common theme in my life these days. So I decided to act on this idea and reintegrate moments when my thoughts can roam free of input from my phone or podcasts. I also reintegrated journaling into my daily routine, a moment of conversation with my inner self.
“Solitude Deprivation A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.”
― Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
What I thought of the book
The book was highly interesting and the ideas were innovative. I only felt that the structure of the book was a bit wobbly. The author scattered some topics across chapters instead of bringing them together in one extensive chapter.
The author comes back in many chapters blasting Facebook and I felt that he was overly critical of the service, especially for someone who’ve never used it. But overall, I enjoyed reading it and take away much food for thought and new mindful habits.
I highly suggest you read the book if you feel that you could improve your relationship with technology and social media or if you are trying to build more mindful habits.
Do you think you’d be able to try a digital declutter? What is your relationship with technology and social media? Let me know in the comments below!