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I’m taking Digital Minimalism Seriously

·1362 words·7 mins
musings digital minimalism tech mental health
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Photo by Dave Ruck

I’ve been caught in the digital trap of the internet and smartphone apps. I’ve spent an insane amount of time on social media, watching YouTube videos, shorts, scrolling endlessly on Twitter and the list goes on and on.

Maybe I was happy from the experience of participating on social media and playing videos. I enjoyed doing these things.

The curse of social media #

For me, time spent on social media helped me discover or learn something new, but for the most part, it ended up in rage filled walls of text to an anonymous somebody who had a different world view than I did.

This was everywhere - Reddit, Twitter, Facebook.. you name it. And this was not just me - go check out any comments section and you will find arguments, abuse, ranting and trolling and what not.

The comments section on social media is like a knife. You can cut or you can get cut. When I received likes and upvotes from people in the community for a comment I made, I felt elated and happy.. I was in charge of the cutting. It felt like I’ve achieved something with this one-up I gained over an anonymous bumpkin who thought he knew better.

I would also receive downvotes and dislikes for a comment that didn’t toe the vibe line of the community, and that would disappoint me. Even though discussions were anonymous, I wanted to be heard and appreciated.. I didn’t pursue this actively, but these are goals that every internet user like me has. There’s something about public validation, from people I didn’t even know, that would make me happy.

Computers and the Digital Life is in my Blood #

I’m no newbie to the world of computers and the digital dimension. I’ve been playing video games since I was 10 from when I got the NES as a gift. And I learnt Linux bash programming by the time I was 15.

But what really mesmerised me was video games on a computer! Once I started playing games on a PC, it was the only thing I ever cared about.

As I got older, I got more into gaming and even pursued it as a career option during college.

Fast forward to until recently, I still was playing video games, although not the competitive ones I used to play back then, but I did spend a significant time during the weekdays and weekends playing video games.

Video games were my escape into virtual worlds and alternate realities. They were the gateway to free my mind from real life. And I spent countless hours on video games.. For instance, I spent over 2000 hours on one game alone. From hour 1 to hour 2000, I got better at the game. But once I shut down my PC, I’m back to my normal world - and what had changed for me personally during the time I spent gaming? Nothing.

Enter Enlightenment #

Then one night, as I was lying down on my bed, it hit me.

What was the point of those numerous hours on Dota, Counter Strike and all those MMORPGs I’ve played over the years?

What was the point of responding to comments on Reddit? I think I’ve spent many hours on social media platforms because of comments I simply had the urge to respond to. Why was I loving this debate?

My subconscious decided it was time to float these questions. And I’m glad it did.. better now than never I thought.

The answer also came to me - it was time to shut things off that were adding no value to my life.

I decided to become more self-aware about where I was spending my time to ensure I utilise my time in the best way possible; which is to achieve my goals.

What would I need to do to make this happen? Quit cold Turkey. Nothing else would do.

My introduction to Digital Minimalism #

The next day, during lunch, I was on YouTube.. because I like to watch something while eating.. and I found a video on “digital minimalism.”

Google was now listening to my thoughts!?

Anyway, I watched this video by Cal Newport, who is also the author of the book “Digital Minimalism,” and the video was a summary of the book.

And basically, what I wanted to do via self-discipline and self-awareness was now being put into a framework by the author. Until now, I had no phrase for what I was feeling, but now it had a name - digital minimalism. This was my introduction to this concept.

What is digital minimalism? #

According to Cal Newport, the idea of digital minimalism is not about abandoning all technology and the internet and going to live in a cave. It is about how to utilise the technology we have in a way that helps us achieve our goals.

Another important aspect is to be aware of whether a piece of technology or subscription is really essential to our life or if we’re getting it because of FOMO.

This video taught me to ask these types of questions - “Do I really need that new phone because it looks cool and packs in the latest technology and I want to be known as someone who is using the latest tech?” VERSUS “How is this latest technology on this new phone going to help me achieve my goal x or goal y?”

My new plan to use technology #

A sentence Cal Newport used on his video that stuck with me was, “You have to be comfortable missing out on everything else.”

This sentence was more a mindset than a commandment - something that I could resonate with deeply.

The good news, I thought, was I never really binged on apps like Instagram watching posts or stories endlessly - I don’t even use it. I never had the urge to “share” everything I was doing in my life. I was more intellectually involved in the comments section on Reddit or Twitter - this is where bulk of my time was being spent.

Not getting influenced #

My new plan is going to be to simple - to not get swayed or influenced by anything and everything on social media or the gaming world. Especially the comments, the drama, the news, the mega sales and stuff that doesn’t add any value to my life.

If I didn’t like something, I would just move on.

It’s not about living like a monk and abandoning everything .. because that would be silly for me as a digital marketer. In this profession I had to be at the cutting edge of everything digital, tech and internet politics so I needed to find a good balance.

Developing self awareness #

My plan was to develop self-awareness on how I was putting technology to use to help achieve my goals - like writing something unique once a week or learning digital marketing. If I am doing something that is not adding to my goals, it was not worth wasting time on it.

More importantly, I wouldn’t be buying games and electronics because they’re on a sale and I don’t want to miss out. I’d also be saving money by not upgrading to a phone simply because it is the latest out there. I’d only be buying something unless it is absolutely necessary.

How digital minimalism is working out so far #

Fast forward to today, I sometimes have a deep urge to reply to comments and I start typing. But after having typed a paragraph, I become aware of what I’m doing.. I smile and click discard. I’ve never been more happy. I don’t have the urge to tell someone what I think anymore - I just don’t care enough to waste my time.

I know that my attention is the currency for companies like Instagram, Facebook, Reddit and YouTube to make money. So instead of letting these companies take charge of my attention, I’m going to take back control. And that’s my plan.

Have you felt like this? What do you think about digital minimalism?