With all new technology entering our lives, Cal Newport became convinced that we need a philosophy of technology use that steers us with decisions to make on what technology to use, how to use them and confidently ignore everything else. He call this Digital Minimalism. His philosophy is a structured approach to use of digital technology; the minimalism in it is a way to handle the digital abundance abundance we are confronted with.
Digital technologies are taking over out lives, if we let them, especially given they are design to attract our attention. Therefore it is essential we know how to best use these tools, and also about how to retain our autonomy while using these tools.
Newport cites researchers that have found sound indications that the tools addictive, as they are pushing use to behavior that is in the end bad for our well-being. These tools were even designed to be additive: they let us constantly seek for social approval and positive reinforcement. So we should find ways to reverse this and find way to put this technology in our favor instead of against us. Newports Digital Minimalism let’s us focus on a small number of carefully selected activities that support the things we value, and let’s us happily ignore everything else.
Principles behing his philosophy:
- Clutter is costly – too many things and apps create negative cost.
- Optimization is important – when you select a tool, you should be clear how you want to use it.
- Intentionality is satifying – having selected the few tools needed, intentional use is more satisfying.
So how to achieve this? Newport proposes a rapid transformation through Digital Declutter:
- Put aside any optional technologies in your life. For those non-optional, specify exactly when and how to use.
- During this period aggressively explore and discover what you find meaningful.
- After this break, reintroduce technologies, but only selected ones, with a clear intentional use.
Selection criteria for the tools we want to use:
- Does the tool support my deeper values in some way.
- Is it the best tool fr its purpose.
- Then how and are you going to use it.
Having created a clear view on the use of technology, now Newport adds behavioral practices to further exploit a digital minimalist life.
Spend time alone
Humans need time to themselves. It increases happiness and productivity. However with the digital tools constantly begging for our attention if we let them, this need for solitude is becoming more and more unanswered – a state of Solitude Deprivation.
Practices Newport adds: leave home without your phone, take long walks, write letters to yourself.
Don’t Click “Like”
Humans are already wired for social interaction. WIth the digital tools we are pushed for even larger and less local social networks, through short interactions. Studies even show people feel more lonely when using social media extensively and having less offline interactions.
Newport recommends concersation-centric communication. Quality conversations are most meaningful social interactions.
Adopt basline rule: do not use social media as a tool for low-quality relationship nudges. I would add: social media is for marketing.
Hold conversation office hours (and free time for deep work).
Pursue activities for the satifaction of that activity itself, not some other goal. That is leasure.
Prioritize demanding activities over passive consumption.
Use skills to produce things valuable in the physical world.
Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.
Fix or build something every week.
Learn and apply one new skill every 6 weeks.
Schedule low-quality leasure time.
Create leasure plans. Season ones, weekly ones.
Doing nothing is overrated.
Join the Attention Resistance.
Again this is about making technology use intentional. Facebook researchers found that the unintentional, uncontrolled use of Facebook may not be healthy and good use of the software should be practiced.
Practices Newport suggests:
- Delete Social Media from your phone. Making it less accessible makes using it more intentional.
- Turn devices is single-purpose devices.
- Use social media like a pro.
- Embrace slow media. A small amount of high quality offerings is better than many low-quality crap. Plus be clear on the now and when of the slow media.
- Dumb down your phone. Make things generally less accessible.