Digital minimalism: A philosophy of technology use

A brief summary of the book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport, including what I found the most useful, and my own journey towards digital minimalism.

What is digital minimalism?

Newport defines digital minimalism as,

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.”

There are three core principles of digital minimalism:

Principle #1: Clutter is costly. Cluttering our time and attention with too many devices, apps, and screen time cost us our productivity, real-life connections, creativity and the pursuit of a well-developed leisure life.

Principle #2: Optimization is important. Figure out how to use technology to best support the things that you value.

Principle #3: Intentionality is satisfying. “Digital minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies.”

An individual practicing digital minimalism will implement the notion less is more when it comes to technology use, and adopt practices that support simplicity, optimization, and intentionality.

However, digital minimalism is unique to each individual, and requires each one of us to do a cost-benefit analysis of our technology use in order to turn it from a source to distraction into a tool to support a life well-lived.

How to best adopt digital minimalism

For Newport, gradual habit change to adopt digital minimalism won’t work because the engineered appeal of the attention economy makes it almost impossible to not get sucked back into excessive digital consumption.

Newport’s solution: digital declutter.

Digital declutter is a process by which we eliminate optional technologies for a 30-day time period and explore offline activities and behaviors that we find satisfying and meaningful. At the end of the 30-day period, we can reintroduce these optional technologies back into our lives by determining the value that they provide us, and only if they provide us value, and figuring out how to best maximize their value.

Newport goes in detail on suggestions to follow the decluttering process, pitfalls to avoid, and maximize the probability of success. He also explores ideas to help us cultivate a sustainable digital minimalism lifestyle, including the importance of solitude, the necessity of cultivating high-quality leisure to replace mindless browsing, and joining the attention resistance movement. Newport also offers plenty of digital minimalism practices his readers can use as a toolbox to aid our efforts in practicing digital minimalism.

I have been practicing digital minimalism for quite some time now. I am very adamant about consciously and continuously assessing my relationship with the digital world.

I quit social media for three years. I deleted Twitter back in 2017, the only social media account I had at the time, and wasn’t on any social media until 2020. I wasn’t on any other social media platforms, besides Twitter, since 2013. I quit the news back in 2016 as “part silent protest, part coping mechanism, part extreme self-care plan.” It is one of the best decisions I’ve made to take care of my sanity.

I have also experimented with eliminating data plan from my phone at times. I highly recommend it. Most importantly, after reading Digital Minimalism, I am even more so obsessed with creating a well-developed leisure life. I highly recommend reading the book for Newport’s exploration of this idea alone. That was, of course, my absolute favorite part.

A well-developed leisure life for me includes reading an ungodly amount of books, going for long walks with my husband or a good podcast, and quality conversations with people whose company I enjoy.

If it is not evident by now, Digital Minimalism is a must-read for anyone looking to liberate themselves from the shackles of social media, smartphones, and screens. It has arrived timely to provide us with relief from our always-on, digitally caffeinated culture.

Digital minimalism provides us with the tools to use technology to support our goals and values, instead of letting it use us.

Until next time,

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