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Digital Minimalism

Coined by author and computer science professor Cal Newport in his book of the same name, Digital minimalism is a philosophy of technology use based on the understanding that our relationship with our apps, tools, and phones is nuanced and deserves more intention than we give it.

Digital minimalism

How you use your apps and tools can bring you value or be a frustrating distraction. And finding a balance between the negative and positive aspects of technology is a delicate balancing act that digital minimalism tries to solve.

The concept, popularized in 2019 by Cal Newport's book(Opens in a new tab) Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, isn't new. But in today's world of virtual everything, blurred work/life boundaries, and alarming choices made by eccentric billionaires, digital minimalism has a growing following and has become even more relevant.

Essentially, digital minimalism is whittling down the technology you use to tools that only help or enrich your life in some way. Rather than the occasional digital detox or hacks like turning off notifications, Newport argues that an entire philosophy is needed to make lasting changes. And that philosophy stems from identifying which technologies serve you and which don't.

Digital minimalism says technology isn't inherently good or bad, it's how we use it that gets us into trouble. "Digital minimalism definitively does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people currently engage with these tools," Newport writes.

Jones, who is now 21, had been interested in minimalism in general, so she and her boyfriend decided to take on the challenge of switching to dumbphones. It was such a success that she documented(Opens in a new tab) her experience on YouTube.

Jones ended up using the flip phone for nine months until she switched to an old iPhone 5S because she missed having a high-quality camera, but through the digital minimalism subreddit(Opens in a new tab), she's found ways to make her iPhone less distracting like deleting the app store or making the screen grayscale. "These little things that phones have that are designed to grab your attention, if you remove those, the phone itself isn't really any more engaging than any other kind of device or thing you have in your house."

"I was thinking that of course, she should be a digital native, she should use those devices from early on, and then I started to research this in order to verify whether I am wrong or right in this attitude," said Rajkow. What he learned was profound. "Basically, I concluded that I will probably never give a smart device to my children before they're 18."

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital minimalism. The key is to evaluate which technologies add meaningful value to your life and limit or eliminate the rest. To get started, Newport recommends a clean slate approach by cutting off all "optional technologies" for 30 days. "During this thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you find satisfying and meaningful," he writes.

Rajkow does not have any social media accounts except for YouTube where he vlogs about digital minimalism and Reddit where he occasionally posts about the topic. "I have no problem using YouTube, because making videos on YouTube is, is something I like to do. I feel better after publishing a video," he said. "I'm not against social media at its core, but I am against social media that is not serving you."

During the pandemic, he and his wife both switched to dumbphones. Rajkow sometimes travels for work, and now that things have started to open up more, the use of QR codes and digital COVID passes presented new challenges.

If this sounds extreme, r/DigitalMinimalism offers(Opens in a new tab) a detailed guide(Opens in a new tab) with varying levels of extremity for those who aren't willing to go cold turkey or are simply "digital minimalism curious." The subreddit also offers a wealth of resources(Opens in a new tab) and tips including blocking software, simplified versions of sites and browsers, a mega list of offline activities, and books/videos from digital minimalist experts.

Remarkably, Jones, Grams, and Rajkow all work in professions that require regular tech use. After ditching her old smartphone ways, Jones graduated and got a job in social media. But she keeps up her digital minimalist habits by having a second phone with all of the social media apps that she keeps in a drawer when she's not working. She uses her dumbed-down iPhone for everything else.

The book in one sentence: Digital Minimalism is about learning how to draw the line with technology, taking more time away from digital devices, while focusing your online time on activities that support your values and goals.

In the next chapter, Newport introduces and defines the concept of digital minimalism: "A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else".

The first week or 2 will be the hardest, since your mind has developed expectations about technology and the distraction or entertainment it provides. This is similar to a withdrawal period during a detox. Newport writes that for most people, that discomfort begins to fade away after the first half of the digital declutter.

If you embrace digital minimalism, there's no denying that there will be a void left by removing certain types of technology from your life. In this chapter, Newport explains how to fill that free time with "high-quality" leisure activities that contribute to your well-being, satisfaction, and inward joy.

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.

Just like physical stuff can be an impediment and distraction from what matters most in life, digital stuff can be as well. And as technology and the internet become an increasingly large part of our lives, their potential to distract us from what really matters grows larger every day.

Amazing, but the real world specifically in Mexico about digital uses are indiscriminately consumed, In order to this article, I guess that the Digital Minimalism culture is so necessary to the new generations. Great Article Nick

I really like that you mentioned several times in different places in the article that digital minimalism is about purposeful and intentional use of technology. Knowing that building (good or bad) habits starts small, I appreciate that you provided some exercises to try out. I am ready to test the water and make my life a little less noisy. Thank you again!

Great tips and something I wanted to read deeply as I write a book on the topic of how to become an effective digital minimalist. Thanks for sharing about the 30 day clutter and the Summer of Digital Minimalism story.

Modern knowledge workers communicate constantly. Their days are defined by a relentless barrage of incoming messages and back-and-forth digital conversations - a state of constant, anxious chatter in which nobody can disconnect, and so nobody has the cognitive bandwidth to perform substantive work. There was a time when tools like email felt cutting edge, but a thorough review of current evidence reveals that the "hyperactive hive mind" workflow they helped create has become a productivity disaster, reducing profitability and perhaps even slowing overall economic growth.

"Newport is making a bid to be the Marie Kondo of technology: someone with an actual plan for helping you realize the digital pursuits that do, and don't, bring value to your life." (Ezra Klein, Vox)

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It's the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals, like observing a digital sabbath, don't go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends, and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.

Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a 30-day "digital declutter" process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control. 041b061a72


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