Minimalism is big these days. In particular, there’s a version of Minimalism called Digital Minimalism that’s quickly rising to prominence as our lives become increasingly tech-centric.
Personal technology like smartphones and tablets are enabling us to spend more and more time online. And as we do, many of us are starting to feel uneasy about this persistent ‘digital creep’—that steady march of gadgets and tech into every aspect of our lives.
Before we get to Digital Minimalism specifically, it’s helpful to first understand Minimalism in general.
Josh Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, two bloggers largely credited with kickstarting the current Minimalist movement, define it like this:
Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.
What is Digital Minimalism?
Digital Minimalism is a specific application of the general minimalist
philosophy to the role of technology in our lives.
Cal Newport has the best definition of Digital Minimalism I’ve seen:
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.
“Digital minimalism” is the concept and strategy of how to embrace and enjoy the benefits that the internet, email, the web, smartphones, tablets, and other technology bring us, without becoming overwhelmed by the fire hose. It is about how to cope with email overload and information overload, how to reduce email volume or manage it more effectively and how to not just survive, but how to thrive in the age of distraction.
If the problem is “Too Much”, then the solution to the problem will always be “Less”. Digital Minimalism is the practice of learning how to achieve that balance without losing the benefits that technology brings us.
DIGITAL USAGE BY THE NUMBERS: According to the latest research from comScore’s 2017 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus study:
- Total digital media usage is up 40% since 2013
- Smartphone usage has doubled in the last 3 years
- 1 of every 2 minutes spent online is on “leisure activities” including social media, video viewing, entertainment/music, and games
- 1 of every 5 minutes spent online is on social media
- At the end of 2016, the average person spent 2 hours 51 minutes per day on mobile
If those stats aren’t shocking enough:
- Last year, Apple apparently acknowledged that its device users unlock their phones 80 times every day.
- Another piece of research from dscout claims the average person touches their phone 2,617 times per day (tapping, swiping, typing, etc.) — some people are even over 5,400 touches per day.
We have been interacting with devices long enough to know, fairly scientifically, that too much screen time is a health risk:
- Basing our measures of success and well-being on social media negatively affect our happiness, stress levels, and feelings of self-worth.
- From a physical standpoint, over-indulging on devices can cause ailments like eye strain, text neck, insomnia, and cybersickness or “digital motion sickness.
- Increased use of chat and text to communicate is reducing our ability to read emotions and interact empathetically with each other.
- Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a feeling of anxiety over the possibility of missing out on something, which many people experience when they discover that other people have had fun together, especially caused by things you see on social media.
- The Fear of Being Offline (FOBO) is the lesser-known cousin of The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). FOBO includes the fear of not being able to get online and check what is going on in your social media feed.
- Nomophobia is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power.
Tech is for making stuff, not feeling better. Use technology as a tool to accomplish your goals and aspirations. Don’t lean on it as a crutch for cheap emotional satisfaction or distraction.
YOU ARE A PERSON, NOT A PRODUCT
You are the product when you are using the Internet. You are data that is then sold to advertisers — that they then use to sell you even more stuff you don’t really need. Don’t fall victim to lifestyle inflation.
Simplify your digital life:
- Remove social media apps from your phone.
- Unsubscribe from email newsletters that aren’t bringing you value
- Turn off notifications from smartphone apps that are constantly distracting you
- Go for a lunch break without your phone or tablet.
- Practice mindfulness meditation.
- Bring back the Sabbath. Use your day of rest as a day without tech.
- Small Moves. Practice periodically leaving your phone at home, in the car, when you are on a walk, meeting for lunch, taking your kids to the park. People did these things just fine for generations. You can too.
- Don’t keep your phone by your bed. Use an “old school” alarm clock.
- Practice healthy sleep hygiene.
- Go outside. Spend time in nature. Go for a walk after dinner.
- Do it with your kids, friends, and family. Make a pact.
- Track your progress. Make a chart, set goals. Use a pen and paper.
- Keep a Journal. Note how do you feel. How does this change over time? What do you notice about your thoughts, feelings, moods, and interactions with others? Does it feel liberating? Empowering? Are you getting more done?
- Build/Create something. Re-engage in an old hobby.
- Plant a garden.
- Read an actual book.
- Go Analog. Start using pen and paper again for things like “to do” or grocery lists.
- Incorporate into a dietary cleanse, fast, or other practice of food as medicine.
- Stop taking pictures of everything and enjoy the moment for what it is.
Join the movement. Take Part in the National Day of Unplugging 2019. The second Friday in March is National Day of Unplugging. This holiday consists of a 24-hour period from sundown to sundown, to unplug, unwind, relax and do things other than using today’s technology, electronics, and social media.
The History of the Day of Unplugging:
The National Day of Unplugging was created by Reboot, a nonprofit Jewish community that was originally established in 2003. However, you do not need to be Jewish, or even religious at all to participate. The idea behind the day was to challenge people to keep their electronic devices unplugged and unused for 24 hours in order to give themselves the chance to take a break and spend time relaxing with family, friends, or alone. This is definitely something that would be useful to everyone, regardless of religion or lack of it.
Reboot believes that such time taken to “reboot” or systems will make us happier, more content with our lives, and more aware of the things that matter.