The Book Talk #18 – Digital Minimalism

6 min read…

Hey, welcome to the 18th episode of our book series – The Book Talk. If it’s your first time here, check our other posts. In this episode, we’ll discuss Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

Agenda

  • The problem
  • The cause
  • The solution (Digital Declutter, 2 practices to adopt, miscellaneous ideas)

1.The problem –

We don’t need an introduction to our fraught relationship with technology. Do you know that, on average, we check our smartphone 85 times (around 2 hours) a day? Half of it is only FB’s products.

Do you check your phone first thing in the morning? Are you letting your phone into your bathroom? Do you want to untether yourself from the shackles of emails, social networks, smartphones, and screens? Then, this book could well be your guide.

We all know the power of the internet; it can and should improve our lives. However, the problem is not its utility, but the way it is designed to make us lose control of our time and lives.

2.The cause –

If you beat yourself up for not having the willpower to avoid social media – quit that. Of course, willpower plays a role but it is overrated. The technical scientists in Silicon Valley are not programming apps, they are programming people. Technology is not neutral.

These tech giants are working on tapping into vulnerability in human psychology, two of which are Intermittent Positive Reinforcement (Likes, comments, notifications) and Social Approval (Snapchat Streaks, Tagging, etc.)

3.The solution –

It is always prudent to balance your profits against the cost measured in terms of your life rather than your money. Similarly, it is easier to be seduced by small amounts of profit offered by an app. But, you forget its cost in terms of the most valued possession – The minutes of your life.

3a. Digital Declutter

It is not just what tech you use, but also how you use them. The best way is to start from scratch and do a complete detox.

After your break, you’d be in a better shape to analyze what you missed and what specific purpose an app served in your daily life. Using this knowledge, you’d then be able to optimize an app for a specific use.

3b. 2 practices to escape tech addiction

1. Spend time in solitude

Humans are not wired to be constantly wired.

Solitude deprivation is a state in which you spend ZERO time alone with your own thoughts, where you are free from input from others. We all need a place (mental, as well as physical) just for quiet reflection.

A few practices to help you –

  • When you go out, leave your phone at home or in the car.
  • Take long walks. Be mindful and aware of your surroundings.
  • Maintain a journal of your progress. Write about something new that you explored.

2. Reclaim high-quality leisure

The problem is, most of us are not addicts to something in particular but a low-quality distraction in general. We all indulge in a variety of low-quality activities throughout the day – TV/Netflix/Prime, social media, video games, etc.

The solution is to prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption. Use your craft and skill to produce quality physical output. Seek activities that require real-world, structure social interaction.

What defines high-quality leisure?

  1. Requires you to spend time with others in person.
  2. Provides some sort of structure for social interaction. (rules to follow, shared goals, tribes)

A few practices to help you –

  • Fix/build something every week. (home repairs, gardening, fixing a bulb, changing car oil, small crafts project with kids)
  • Schedule low-quality leisure. (Set time for your emails, TV, and social media)
  • Join something. (CrossFit, meditation or hiking group, toastmasters, etc.)

3c. Miscellaneous tips

  1. Set curfew hours for gadgets. Define the time & location to use your phone.
  2. Delete all social media apps from your phone.
  3. Try using 2 different phones. Or, if you can afford the luxury, switch to a basic phone.
  4. Set-up long passwords – I tried this for FB and the laziness to type the 49-character password has helped me reduce the number of times I log in.
  5. Bookmark pages. I bookmarked pages of a few FB groups I follow. So, whenever I need an update, I visit the group and immediately log out without scrolling through the endless news feeds.
  6. Put your phone in DND mode by default. Alternatively, turn off all notifications.
  7. Install blocking/monitoring apps and software. I have YourHour installed on my phone, and reduced phone usage to a great extent.
  8. Embrace slow media. You don’t need every breaking news. Only follow high-quality news channels or people.

There is no doubt that technology improves our lives by leaps and bounds. But, when they are designed to make the consumers addicted, it leads to the degradation of humanity.

 As a digital minimalist, you see technology as a tool to support what you deeply value and not as a source of value itself. Do not be afraid to miss out on a few things. It is not about just the technology, but more about the quality of your life.


If you like this book, purchase it on Amazon now! US: Amazon.com | UK: Amazon.co.uk

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