Book Notes – Digital Minimalism

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport lays out the benefits and then steps of using a more deliberate approach of selecting technology that benefits oneself. This book shares the same writing tone of Deep Work, providing a lot of examples for the different principles explained in the book.

Digital Minimalism is defined 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.”

Overall, a pretty good read. For someone that generally follows Cal’s line of thinking, it was nice to read some of the examples (gives some inspiration) alongside the different ideas provided to balance between using technology for your own benefit and getting sucked into overuse.

Outline

The book provides a collection of steps that can be outlined below:

Digital Minimalism Principles:

  • Clutter is costly.
  • Optimization is important.
  • Intentionality is satisfying (intention trumps convenience)

Digital Declutter process – set aside all optional technologies for 30 days, then reintroduce them slowly into life after the habit for checking regularly disappears.

Digital Minimalism Practices:

  • Leave your phone at home
  • Take long walks (without headphones, use this time to think intentionally)
  • Write letters to yourself (process of writing more important than outcome)
  • Spent time alone (provides solitude)
  • Don’t click “Like” (prioritize high-value conversation vs. low-value communication, more below)
  • Consolidate texting
  • Fix or build something every week
  • Schedule your low-quality leisure
  • Join something
  • Follow leisure plans
  • Delete social media from your phone (just use on desktop/laptop)
  • Turn your devices into single-purpose computers (limit options available for general-purpose device at certain times)
  • Use social media like a professional (remember that social media companies spend millions to keep you invested as long as possible, get just the basic needs you need from it)
  • Embrace slow media
  • Dumb down your smartphone

Conversation vs. Communication

In her book Reclaiming Conversation, Turkle makes a distinction between:

  • High-value conversation, committed face to face conversation with others
  • Low-value communcation, asynchronous communication with others usually via digital means

This ties into the idea of staying away from something like “Likes” on social media – focus on dedicated conversations with others, which makes for a more fulfilling social life as a whole over trying to spread communication thin.

Personal thought: Interesting the idea that something like using social media makes you think you could miss out on what people are doing- but you can always reach out individually to the people you care about to check in!

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