It’s Time to Become a Digital Minimalist

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

I’ve been spending too much time on my phone lately. It’s so easy to use it for momentary distraction and entertainment. But that takes away from the more meaningful activities I could be doing. It also fractures my attention. I would like to be more present in the moment. But how can I do that?

The author believes that we should all come up with “a full-fledged philosophy of technology use, rooted in your deep values, that provides clear answers to the questions of what tools you should use and how you should use them and, equally important, enables you to confidently ignore everything else.”

That’s a great idea. It’s incredibly easy to just start scrolling on your phone and see hours of your time dwindle away. These hours could be wiser spent.

As Newport writes, “Doing nothing is overrated. In the middle of a busy workday, or after a particularly trying morning of childcare, it’s tempting to crave the release of having nothing to do—whole blocks of time with no schedule, no expectations, and no activity beyond whatever seems to catch your attention in the moment. These decompression sessions have their place, but their rewards are muted, as they tend to devolve toward low-quality activities like mindless phone swiping and half-hearted binge watching.”

He continues, “Investing energy into something hard but worthwhile almost always returns much more richer rewards.”

It’s amazing how much we rely on our phones. For those of use that grew up in the last millennium, we can recall a time where we didn’t have these devices. We got by fine without them. They are convenient and offer a lot but we don’t need them all the time and should consider their true costs.

Newport writes, “In 90 percent of your daily life, the presence of a cell phone either doesn’t matter or makes things only slightly more convenient. They’re useful, but it’s hyperbolic to believe its ubiquitous presence is vital.”

But he also doesn’t advocate for a complete dismissal.

“To live permanently without these devices would be needlessly annoying, but to regularly spend a few hours away from them should give you no pause. It’s important that I convince you of this reality, as spending more time away from your phone is exactly what I’m going to ask you to do.”

I’ve decided to take his advice. I, once again, deleted social media from my phone. But further to that, I am staying off social media for one month. I am only checking it sporadically and not scrolling. I just wanted to stay on top of any interactions that are timely and pertinent. So far, in two weeks, there hasn’t really been anything all that pressing.

I think it makes sense to consider becoming a digital minimalist. After all, “new technology, when used with care and intention, creates a better life than either Luddism or mindless adoption.”

So, let’s be selective with how we use these tools. Let’s direct our energy to more worthwhile activities. Let’s live in the moment and interact in more meaningful ways.

My Reading Log of 2022