Introducing digital minimalism
Social media has significantly changed the way we consume information and communicate ideas since its inception in 1997. Fun fact: SixDegrees.com, which has been rendered obsolete, was the first-ever social network service website. (It lasted until 2011.) In 2004, Facebook went live; this was followed by Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010. With 3.2B users worldwide—equating to 42% of the population and is still increasing—social media has been woven into the fabric of daily life.
In 2016, Cal Newport conducted a TEDx Talk entitled Why You Should Quit Social Media, which has since garnered 6M views. The computer scientist, a 37-year-old millennial who has never had a social media account, believes that it is not a fundamental piece of technology but is, instead, an in-your-face form of entertainment (see attention engineering). Now, if my livelihood as a creative didn't rely on it, I would be on board. Newport later on penned the bestselling book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.
Digital minimalism is, as he describes, the “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.” A cure for FOMO in the 21st-century digital economy? Count me in.
The 30-Day “Digital Declutter”
The quiet movement rediscovers the pleasure of the offline world by reconnecting with our inner selves. Where to begin? By committing to a 30-day “digital declutter” amid the pull of inescapable distraction. We start with small, gradual changes. He writes, “To re-establish control, we need to move beyond tweaks and instead rebuild our relationship with technology from scratch, using our deeply held values as a foundation.”
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Use only technology that is necessary by choosing which digital activities are deserving of your time and energy. Newport explains, “This lifestyle experiment provides a reset for your digital life by clearing away distracting tools and compulsive habits that may have accumulated haphazardly over time and replacing them with a much more intentional set of behaviors, optimized in proper minimalist fashion, to support your values instead of subverting them.” This is prompted by being intentional with the information you consume.
Lessen mindless scrolling and browsing. It may help to unfollow and mute accounts—yes, even family members and classmates from university (you haven't talked to in years). I mean, did you really need to see another photo of your tita's plant collection? Limit time spent on apps and give yourself a “curfew” by downloading apps to lessen social media intake like Forest, Moment and OFFTIME. If you do use social media to consume relevant information like the news, check the headlines once a day. Delete apps on your smartphone to lessen the obsession with the feedback loop a.k.a “likes” and endless scrolling. Reconnect with activities you once enjoyed like reading or even something as simple as walking.
Humans are not wired to be constantly wired, or so Newport says. On productivity, he shares, “If you treat your attention with respect, you don’t fragment it; you allow it to stay whole, you preserve your ability to concentrate. When it comes time to work, you can actually do one thing after another and do it with intensity, and intensity can be traded for time.” (I listen to these radical claims with 25 tabs opened.) Thus the need to have a meaningful, intentional and balanced relationship with technology lest it use and control us.
Art Alexandra Lara