Digital Minimalism: An Experiment To Simplify Online Life
Over the last week, I have been reading the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. The central idea of the book is about being aware of the various technologies affecting our lives and making a conscious effort to choose those are required and adds value to your life.
”Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital Minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.” - Cal Newport
Before starting with the book, I have to admit that my online life was not that ordered and thought through. However I was aware of the social media application’s taking a significant part of my time, casually browsing without giving any value in return. I had intentionally stopped using Facebook for a couple of months, and now I am completely off it. Instagram was soon to follow except for some occasional posting. I had uninstalled both apps from my phone as it was the main access points to these sites. I had intentionally turned off all notifications on the phone for a long time and found it really helpful.
However, what I was not aware of was with these two applications gone I soon started relying on other apps to fill in its place. I am into running and found myself spending more time on Strava. For the social part, I started being more into WhatsApp, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. When nothing was there, I was hanging on to the email applications pulling to see if anything interesting came in (as if I was expecting a million dollars email). Only after starting with the book did I start realizing that these apps had taken over the ones that I had given up.
The title of the book, ‘Digital Minimalism’, immediately caught my attention when I first saw it and I was keen to read it. Primarily I wanted to reduce my phone usage as most of my time was going away there. Going through the digital declutter phase, I took note of all the technologies and application that are on my phone. The Screen Time feature on iPhone (you can use Digital Wellbeing if you are on an Android or install RescueTime application) started making me more aware of the time that I have been spending on phone and the apps that took most of my time.
I realized that a majority of my time was spent on WhatsApp especially on Group Chats and scrolling through all the forwarded messages/videos in them and always checking back for more content. Even though I have a Kindle, I was reading more on the Kindle app on phone. Most of the time when reading I would be distracted by something else and wander off to a different app. Even though I had notification turned off new features like Badges took its place which started pulling me again into the apps.
After noting done all the apps and analyzing them, I started decluttering my phone.
- Exited all Whatsapp Group Chats
- Removed the below apps
- Emails (Gmail and Outlook)
- Disabled Badges notification
- Disabled (Raise to Wake)[https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT208081]: This is one of the features that lure you to look into the phone even if you did not intend to do.
Microsoft Teams: *Initially I had removed Teams, but realized that was the only way to communicate with my Readify team members quickly. So decided to install it back.*
By deleting the Kindle app, I am looking to force myself not to use the phone for reading books. I am keen to try out the idea of reading physical books and take notes while reading, an idea that struck me while reading the Bullet Journal blog (This is also where I came across the book ‘Digital Minimalism’ the first time.). I was in India recently and took advantage of getting books for a much lower price and gifted myself some self-help books and a few others.
Interestingly I also came across Bullet Journaling at the same time, which aligns with Digital Minimalism as it forces you to sync to paper your ideas, thoughts, and to-dos as opposed to a digital system. I have started trying this out alongside and find it helpful — more on it in a different blog post.
Digital Minimalism is not a one-time activity, but something to perform on an ongoing basis and any time you think of adding a new technology into your life. It has just been over a week that I have started decluttering my online life, and I am already finding benefits. I pick up my phone less often and have lesser a mental load to keep track off.
I plan to do the same decluttering process with my laptop once I get into the flow of the process. Decluttering is a great way to bring in more focus in your life and gives you a lot more time than you previously had. How decluttered is your online life?