All Things Analog

Digital Minimalism

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By David Michael Newstead.

Years ago, advocating for Digital Minimalism would have seemed like the ravings of an out-of-touch contrarian. Today, however, one controversy after another has caused us to collectively step back and re-evaluate technology’s place in our lives. Or to begin to, at least. It was all supposed to be fun and helpful after all, leaving one to wonder where things went wrong. Increasingly, people feel addicted to their devices and overwhelmed, while issues surrounding privacy and discourse online have darkened the reputations of once popular tech giants. Surely there’s a better way, you might be thinking. And perhaps there is.

Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism expounds a “Philosophy of Technology Use” that is focused on being more balanced and purposeful. Rather than forcing yourself to navigate the modern world as a Luddite, Newport simply wants us to refrain from blindly downloading every app or spending unlimited amounts of time on social media. Essentially, it’s about creating healthy boundaries, while still appreciating the value that technology can provide. To prove his point, the author quotes Thoreau and outlines the gradual technological creep that took place as smartphones and social media converged to facilitate an ever connected marketplace of attention. Apart from some fascinating examinations of Walden, the Amish, and the neuroscience of boredom, the book offers a variety of recommendations to incorporate into your day-to-day. These include:

  • Solitude
  • Taking Walks
  • Using Notebooks
  • Writing Letters
  • And scheduling (and therefore limiting) social media use for specific purposes

All good things with definite positive impacts for those who are able to put them into practice. Alone, each of these actions are perhaps subtle and pleasant. But together, they may help to carve out the space for quiet reflection that technology has steadily chipped away at over the last two decades. And from that vantage point, one hopes that Digital Minimalism can foster a sense of personal strength and integrity free from the trends, comments, and likes of the attention economy, giving us greater perspective and allowing people to redirect their focus towards more worthwhile endeavors.

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