Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport

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  • Title: Digital Minimalism
  • Author: Cal Newprt
  • Link: Goodreads

Start: 3 October 2020
End: 11 October 2020


Part 1 – Foundations

1. A Lopsided Arms Race

Talks about how digitalism and apps have been constructed to basically entice and force us to spend more time on them. This is achieved through the “like” and notification tools where you feel the need to be constantly hooked and online to get the notifications. Looking at a phone becomes a little bit like a lottery as you do not know what you will get.

Who would have thought that what kicked this all off was unintentional? The iPhone, which was basically bringing together a music player and phone, drove this revolution.

2. Digital Minimalism

The next part of the book focuses on whether technology as it is, can be of real use and if giving us a benefit. The author looks at the Amish group to see that they live well and happy even without the modern world’s technology. By limiting what we have available, are we really limiting ourselves?

People spend hours on Twitter to find that golden nugget of information which may be of use. Before you know it, the day has passed by. Would it be better to dedicate some time over the weekend and spend focused time on a course / podcast to glean all the information possible. We would be advancing a lot quicker and gaining more but in a limited amount of the time. Purposeful / intentional learning vs shallow learning comes to mind as explained in Deep Work, Cal Newport.

3. The Digital Declutter

The next section then considers how we can reduce technology and become minimalists. By doing:

  • 30-day course of removing all optional technology (things like Twitter, Discord, Reddit etc. – not work email, the oven) we can really gain back our lives. We can really learn where our time was going and whether this technology is useful.
  • Add back a little by little the things you could not live without.
  • It is possible to remove things one at a time but your perception would be different. It is best to go cold turkey and really see what happens.

It is tough for a few days as your go-to item when you are bored is no longer there, whether that be Discord or social media, you now might find yourself feeling empty. This is fine, battle on and do not give up – there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Part 2 – Practices

4. Spend Time Alone

Interesting story regarding solitude and how Lincoln used this to great advantage. Thinking back, I previously had moments of “empty” time to leave my brain the space to reflect and ponder – now it seems that it is constantly connected and never has the time to be with itself. The fact that phones have taken away every moment of quietness is something that I want to look into in more detail.

I like the fact that there are accounts of people throughout the book, which give an insight into what they did and what they achieve.

5. Don’t Click β€œLike”

The book mentions the problems on relationships of clicking like or giving the weak “awww” comment this does not add much to anyone. The better thing to do is pick up the phone a d talk or go round and sit the person. Yes, some relationships will disappear as you are not liking images or comments but these were destined to disappear anyway and did not add much value. Reduce the fringe connections and reconnect fully with people to make a stronger circle.

Holding office hours for conversation can be a good thing. This way people know when to contact you and are free to do so at any time. It allows you to fulfil potentially empty time with something more meaningful and productive. Connecting with people in a real manner as opposed to doing everything by text or email. The popularity of these tools seems to have been driven by the phone phobia – the fear of not knowing if you disturb the other person when you call.

6. Reclaim Leisure

The complication is that without the mindless phone time and endless scrolling, time needs to be filled with activities. Preferably with an out of screen type activity such a joining a club / group and spending time outside doing something manual. It is stated that doing something manual is better than screen time as it gives you a sense of completing something with your hands – a sense of achievement.

7. Join the Attention Resistance

In this section of the book, Cal talks about the benefits and approaches that can be adopted to become a digital minimalist. The Facebooks and Twitters of this world have gone from connecting people to taking your data and selling it to others for more money. In essence, what counts to these entities are eye-ball minutes and they will do absolutely everything they can to keep you glued to your phone.

To get past this, we can do things like:

Remove social medial from the phone (ad revenue for Facebook went from about 15% in 2014 to 88% in recent years) – removing the app can help you from the tactics deployed by the entities.

  • We can also block access to these sites and use a default block (rather than default open) to limit the time we spend on services.
  • We can go old school and get rid of a smartphone and return to a phone that does calls and texts.
  • Only access services for a specific reason (more tricky than sounds)

All the above are aimed at reducing our time spend mind-numbingly scrolling without getting much out.

Thoughts

Recurring screen time on pointless things is something that I definitely want to look more into. I have of late started spending more and more time on the screen on pointless things than enjoying the finer things in life. The comments raised in the book and are interesting Some apply to me and others don’t but it was interesting to see the tactics developed by social media companies and what they aim to do by making you spend more and more time glued to their services.

Need to gain back life and solitude to let the brain evolve but at the same time to have a rest from the constant flow of information.

I felt that the ending was a bit long without adding much new information.