I had been off the grid for the previous 10 days. I opened up my phone and went online for the first time. I opened Instagram and began to scroll through. The first photo was someone posing in a Happy New Year’s photo from a Four Seasons in Hawaii. The next photo was someone at an epic party at a different Four Seasons in Mexico. The next was a photo of a beautiful family having a great time in the Middle East.
I put my phone down. An odd feeling swept over me. Everyone else was living these ridiculously nice lives in ridiculously fun places for New Year’s…and what was I doing? Oh yeah, I was also at a nice hotel in an exotic locale.
It seemed absurd to be prompted to feel sorry for myself — in that ever-so-slight FOMO kind of way — given the circumstances.
I haven’t really used Instagram since. Seeing a stream of everyone’s most beautiful selves in their most beautiful exotic locales — and choosing to refresh that stream 10 times a day (thanks to the product’s dopamine producing qualities) — didn’t seem like it was making my life better.
It was in this spirit that I was excited to dive into Cal Newport’s latest book, the instant New York Times bestseller: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.
I’ve been talking to Cal for years about his ideas here and he pulled it all together very nicely in this book. He discusses the philosophy of minimalism applied to technology; why he’s not wildly supportive of “digital detox” routines; the value of leisure time that doesn’t involve devices; and some practical tips to manage tech use, such as deleting addictive apps from your phone (even if you still access them on your computer).
So many of my friends are so incredibly addicted to Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. It intrudes on personal happiness (Cal’s topic) and professional effectiveness (the topic of Cal’s next book). This is rather urgent topic. I’m not much better. As I tweeted recently:
The modern playbook for mindfulness may be mostly about exercising control over tech devices and the constant checking of email and social media.
You can meditate for an hour a day and study Buddhism but that won’t solve your addiction to refreshing this very page.
— Ben Casnocha (@bencasnocha) March 13, 2019
I recorded a podcast with Cal the other week about the book. It’s a 45 minute conversation. You can listen to it here. Show notes pasted below.
Cal starts out by defining what digital minimalism is exactly. He talks about why he refrains from using social media and explains how the mechanics of social apps create something resembling an addiction.
They discuss Henry David Thoreau’s philosophy of time management as explained in Walden, and why you should “think of your phone like the closet in the Marie Kondo show.” Cal explains why a 30-day reset is necessary and how exactly to use that time to find clarity around what is most valuable to you.
Cal talks about the kinds of offline activities that new digital minimalists start to engage in, his unique definition of solitude, and why solitude is so important.
They also give a sneak peek of Cal’s next book, on digital minimalism in the workplace.
Quotes From This Episode
“Minimalism says if you really want to maximize your quality of life, find the things that are really valuable, focus on those, and miss out on the things — not that are bad — but that are good but not that good.”
“The cost of the clutter is going to overwhelm the benefits that each of these things causing the clutter actually creates.”
“You can think about your phone like the closet in the Marie Kondo show.”
“Never before in human history could we get rid of every single moment of solitude in the day.”
“Clean out the proverbial closet and rebuild your digital life from scratch, but just do it much more intentionally.”