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Should we adopt Digital Minimalism?

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You may have seen the video of Simon Sinek explaining the Millennial Question. If not you should check it out now. His insight into the Millennial generation’s addiction to the dopamine-releasing effects of smartphone and computer usage is an insightful watch. The warning it proffers –as to how this usage affects our self esteem, ability to cope in stressful situations and how it challenges our ability to form cohesive relationships both personally and professionally– applies to everyone, not just Millennials.

You may have also read one of ever growing number of articles about the modern-day ‘curse’ of being busy. An affliction typified by the repeated tendency our society has developed, to comment on how busy we’ve been when we meet up with friends and relatives, as though we’ve achieved some sort of life goal or status by having too much to do and concentrate on. Tim Kreider explains the comment perfectly in one of the original articles about The Busy Trap: “It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

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It’s now considered normal to text in company, email someone sat at the same desk as you, and direct message instead of calling. Wherever possible we avoid encounters, cultivating a virtual, private space for ourselves instead. Which would be fine, except our ‘busy’, instantly gratified, digitally cluttered lives are making us unhappy. Statistics from the WHO show suicide rates have increased 60 percent over the past 50 years - most strikingly in the developing world. By 2020 depression will be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world. So in short: we’re miserable, and the growth of our digital lives is at least partly to blame.

In reaction to this, a trend is gradually emerging which encourages us to cultivate more ‘minimalist’ lives for ourselves, these lives are free from devices, and seek real instead of virtual contact. A minimalist lifestyle is necessary, before we hit a collective crisis of intimacy which destroys our ability to socialise for ever.

Stemming from the larger ‘Minimalism’ lifestyle, which you’ll find a good introduction to over on Netflix in the form of: Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things In Life, Digital Minimalism is defined by Cal Newport as: “A philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.”

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There are a number of different ways you can adopt a more digitally minimalist lifestyle, and for in-depth ideas check out Cal Newport, No Sidebar or The Minimalists introductions to the practice. To kick off your analogue transformation though, here’s Creativepool’s ten tips to get you started…

  1. Choose set hours when you’ll be plugged into the digital world and stick to them. Outside these hours turn all your devices off and concentrate on the relationships you have with those around you.
  2. Be mindful of how you’re using social media. Do you spend vast periods of time ‘liking’ images from people you don’t know that well? If so ask yourself whether it might be time to strengthen your actual friendships.
  3. Declutter: Get rid of apps, tools and anything in the digital sphere which you don’t actually use.
  4. Organise: Once you’ve got rid of everything you don’t digitally use, spend time organising the things you do: make your email inbox more streamlined, group music in playlists, sort out your desktop, and create folders for photos and videos.
  5. If you’re not at work - DO NOT CHECK YOUR WORK EMAILS! (Amen)
  6. Note the side effects: Social media can be a great tool, but equally it can lead too easily to comparison and negative feelings about yourself. Be mindful when you’re scrolling through sites of how you feel, make changes accordingly.
  7. Check in on whether you find yourself using tools you didn’t previously need. We’ve always needed maps for example - so Google Maps is no new medium. But Instagram Stories isn’t something we needed a year ago… so do you really need it so often now?
  8. If you find your attention spread thinly between lots of different messaging mediums, choose a maximum of three that work for you and delete the others. You’ll create better conversations by doing so.
  9. If your phone is the last thing you check and night and the first thing in the morning how about breaking the routine? Turn it off an hour before bedtime, and don’t turn it on again until you’ve already started your day.
  10. Work on your FOMO. Focus on the things you are getting done more sustainably rather than the messages, memes or emails you didn’t see.

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What do you think? Should we be cultivating more digitally sparing futures? Is any of this even possible? The alternative, should we chose to ignore this advice, has already been made painfully clear to us. Think of Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode or Theodore Twombly’s lonely character in Spike Jonze’s Her

On that note I’m logging out. Bye!

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