Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life in a Noisy World — Review

Photo by Roman Bozhko on Unsplash

This story was originally published on my personal website.

After watching the Social Dilemma last weekend, I felt that I would share some of my notes collected from Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life in a Noisy World book. This book is about how we use technology in our lives and how society has been transformed as a result of the latest technological development. I selected this book because I found myself simply accepting new technologies and bringing them into my life without really questioning the benefits they may provide and if those benefits outweighed the costs. This book guides those who are interested in becoming more intentional and mindful when it comes to technology they use daily.

Digital Minimalism is…

A 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.

The Three Core Principles

1 — Clutter is costly

A Digital Minimalists recognize that cluttering their time and attention with too many devices, apps, and services creates an overall negative cost that can swamp the small benefits that each item provides in isolation.

2 — Optimization is important

Digital Minimalists believe that deciding a particular technology supports something they value is only the first step. To truly extract its full potential benefit, it’s necessary to think carefully about how they’ll use the technology.

3 — Intentionality is satisfying

Digital Minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies. This source of satisfaction is independent of the specific decisions they make and is one of the biggest reasons that minimalism tends to be immensely meaningful to its practitioners.

Digital Declutter

Newport shares a Digital Declutter Process that asks you to put aside thirty-days during which you take a break from all optional technologies in your life. During the thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you previously enjoyed, find satisfying, and meaningful. At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies back into your life, starting from a blank slate. For each technology you reintroduce, determine what value it serves in your life, and how specifically you will use it to maximize its value. This allows you to only focus on using technology that has a purpose and is useful to your day to day life.

Four Practices to Assist

1 — Spend Time Alone

Find moments of solitude to allow for new ideas to form, to understand one’s self, and to become closer with others.

Practise solitude in this noisy world by: leaving the phone at home, taking long walks, and writing.

2 — Don’t Click “Like”

Humans are wired to be social. Our brain has evolved over millions of years in an environment where face-to-face interactions were many and social groups were fairly small. Over the past two decades, there has been a contrast to this, digital communication tools have rapidly spread across the world pushing people’s social networks to be much larger, encouraging interactions through short, text-based messages and clicks of approvals that are less informative than we’ve evolved to expect.

Practices to reclaim conversation in your life: Don’t click “like”, consolidate texting, and hold conversation office hours.

3 — Reclaim Leisure

Newport describes two types of leisure: High and Low quality. High-quality leisure involves the pursuit of finding a source of inward joy, while Low-quality leisure is the digital distraction that social media and absent-minded bingeing brings about. One leaves you feeling reward while the other feels like a lack of accomplishment.

Practices to upgrade your leisure life: Fix or build something every week, schedule your low-quality leisure, join something, and follow leisure plans.

4 — Join the Attention Resistance

The attention economy is a business sector that makes money-gathering consumers’ attention and repacking and selling it to advertisers. The compulsiveness of new technologies is not an accident but a strategy where teams of PhDs work together to extract as much “eyeball minutes” since the relevance of your data collected is becoming more and more lucrative. To successfully resist, you need both preparation and a ruthless commitment to avoiding exploitation.

Resist the influence by: Deleting social media from your phone, turn your device into a single-purpose computer, use social media like a professional, embrace slow media, and dumb down your phone.

I highly recommend this book for people:

  • Who feel their technology use is out of control
  • Who want to overcome digital addiction
  • Who are trying to implement deeper work and enjoy present moments

Skip this book if you:

  • Are comfortable with your relationship with technology

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Adam Dipinto

Adam Dipinto

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Business Analyst for Payment Processor. Writing about Web3, Payments, and Technology.