How do you buy digital media

Digital minimalism: Live better with less technology

What do smartphones, apps and social media have in common? Right: none of these things even existed 20 years ago, and today it is hard to imagine our daily lives without them.

We are networked with more people than ever before via Facebook, Instagram and Co. We can communicate with our friends or parents in seconds. And when our stomachs growl in a strange city, we simply allow ourselves to be navigated to the next vegan restaurant.

Beautiful new world!

Has the smartphone made our lives better?

But have all these technical innovations really made our lives better? Thanks to smartphones, online friendships and “likes”, are we happier, more satisfied, and less lonely today than we were in the technological stone age?

There is more and more evidence that the opposite is the case - and there are more and more people who are thinking about a sustainable, “healthy” use of the new digital technologies.

One of them is the American author Cal Newport, who wrote a book about it called Digital Minimalism *. Katrin and I read it a few weeks ago and took so much food for thought from it that we really want to recommend it to you.

In this post I will present the key messages from “Digital Minimalism” - and on Thursday we will talk in the beVegt podcast about what we have both already implemented for us in this area.

Addiction potential as a business model

Have you ever caught yourself trying to specifically check something with your smartphone - only to wake up minutes later, as if out of a trance, in the here and now?

You shouldn't have a guilty conscience about it, because you can't help it.

We don't spend so much time on our smartphones and on social media because we are naturally lazy and undisciplined, but because tech companies invest billions of dollars in designing their apps in such a way that we can hardly resist them.

The like button. Endless scrolling through the feed. Algorithms that show us exactly what we want to read. Notifications that tempt us to open the app again and again: "There's something new to discover ... do you really want to miss it?"

The more time we spend on the various services, the more valuable they become. A maximum addiction potential is the central aspect of the business model of Facebook, Instagram, Youtube & Co.

Okay, but where exactly is the problem?

So far so good - but what's the problem? We get something back for the attention and time we invest in our “digital life”: We stay in contact with friends and acquaintances, online groups and forums give us a feeling of belonging, and every “like” taking one of our posts gives us a pleasant feeling of confirmation and recognition.

That’s the theory. But be honest with yourself: does this also correspond to your personal experience?

Maybe you feel more like me after all, and you get annoyed more often that you wasted way too much time on Facebook without really having achieved anything. Or you have let yourself get drawn into an exhausting, heated (and ultimately completely pointless) discussion. Or just feel upset about something you read on the net.

This subjective feeling that digital technologies - and especially social media - take more from us than they give us is now confirmed by initial studies.

Newport summarizes the results in his book *. So too much online time can:

  • Trigger stress and fears (e.g. through bad news, the often rough to spiteful tone in discussions and the feeling of not being able to keep up with all the "news")
  • lead to loneliness (because Facebook friends and Instagram followers are not an equal substitute for real interpersonal relationships)
  • affect our self-esteem (because we are constantly comparing our actual reality with the "embellished" reality of others)

A new philosophy in dealing with digital technologies

So it can't hurt to take a critical look at our online habits. And maybe you have already tried a few tips and tricks for a more conscious use of the Internet, smartphone and social media?

That's good ... but not good enough yet.

In his book, Newport takes the view that good resolutions and small changes don't work when it comes to things like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram: The addictive potential that emanates from them is so strong that we always come back after a short time fall back into our old usage patterns.

If you've ever deleted an app from your smartphone just to reinstall it some time later, then you know what he means by that.

But what is the alternative?

It's simple: we have to start all over again - and give ourselves our own “philosophy” for our digital life.

And maybe you already guessed it: The philosophy that Newport recommends is digital minimalism 🙂

What is digital minimalism?

Digital minimalism is a philosophy for how we deal with new technologies such as the internet, smartphones, apps, social media, etc.

A digital minimalist focuses on a small number of carefully selected online tools and activities that help them live in harmony with their values.

It is completely okay for a digital minimalist that he (or she) does not notice everything and cannot be there everywhere. It is more important to him to take enough time for the things that he already knows will enrich his life.

A digital minimalist does not generally do without all technical innovations. He is just very picky and consciously decides which things to use for what purpose - and which not. In this way, he turns his PC, smartphone and apps into tools that will help him lead a good life.

Even if it all sounds like doing without: In our experience, there is hardly anything more satisfying than the feeling of consciously and self-determinedly dealing with our precious time and attention. This is exactly what minimalism is all about - whether digital or analog 🙂

The digital clearing out: in 30 days to the digital minimalist

Do you feel like getting started and becoming a digital minimalist? Then you are probably wondering how best to start.

Cal Newport presents a method in his book that he calls "digital clearing out". It consists of the following three steps:

  1. In the first step you do without all "optional" technologies in your life for 30 days. Optional is everything that you do not necessarily need, e.g. to do your job and manage your everyday life - whereby you should apply the criteria as strictly as possible when making your selection.
  2. During these 30 days, you use the time you have gained to find out which things and activities are really important to you and make you satisfied and happy (e.g. offline hobbies, spending time with family or friends, being outside, etc.).
  3. At the end of your digital clearing out, you can then gradually let selected "optional" technologies back into your life. This time you raise the bar a lot higher and ask yourself the question: "To what extent does this technology help me to lead a life according to my values?" You also set binding rules on how you will use the respective technology.

And because that probably all sounds a bit too theoretical, here are two more examples:

Example 1: You realize that it is important to you to meet and do things with your friends on a regular basis. In order to be able to meet them more easily, you decide to use an instant messenger such as Whatsapp.

To do this, you formulate the following rules: You do not join any chat groups, deactivate all notifications on your smartphone and only open the app twice a day at precisely defined times.

Example 2: You realize that it is important to you to run regularly. In order to exchange ideas with other runners and get tips and motivation, you decide to join a group on Facebook (for example this one, * cough *).

However, you know that you often cannot resist the numerous distractions on Facebook. Therefore, you deactivate all notifications from friends and other sites, always call up the group via the direct link and set precise times when you can visit them.

Tips for a more conscious use of smartphones, apps and social media

After introducing the philosophy of digital minimalism and the digital clearing out process, Newport gives us a few specific tips and recommendations in the second part of his book.

Here are some of them that I copied as I read:

  1. Leave the smartphone at home. That sounds pretty radical, but let's be honest - we used to be able to be at the agreed place at the agreed time without a smartphone. If this is still too intense for you, then try it out on short walks, meetings or errands, and slowly approach longer and longer smartphone-free phases.
  2. Do not give likes or write comments. As mentioned above, the Like button is one of the various addicting elements on social media. Newport therefore recommends that you cease using it as a matter of principle. The same goes for comments, which are quick to write but cannot replace real social relationships and interactions.
  3. No more instant messaging. Nobody has to be available at all times, and in the rarest of cases, messages sent via WhatsApp are so important that we have to react to them immediately. Deactivate the notifications and use instant messengers like an e-mail inbox, which you only look into at certain times.
  4. Find alternative pastimes. If you spend less time with your PC and smartphone, you have more time for other things. It is best to know before your digital clearing out how you want to fill this newly gained time sensibly.
  5. Ignore news sites and "breaking news". It is not necessary to always be informed about the latest events - most “breaking news” are unimportant and have little meaning for us. We can only consume them passively and often they also frighten us or we get angry about them without being able to achieve anything.

That was now, so to speak, "digital minimalism" in a fast run. There are so many more ideas, food for thought and tips in Cal Newport's book that it is definitely worth reading it in full.

On Thursday we will tie in with this topic in the beVegt podcast and tell you which measures we have already implemented ourselves to make our digital life more minimalistic - and which changes we have already noticed.

And of course, as always, we are interested in your opinion: What do you think of technological "achievements" such as smartphones, social media and instant messengers? How do you use it And what would you like to change in this regard? I am looking forward to your comment!

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