Digital Minimalism: free your mind

As mentioned in my previous blog i got a lot of reading done. This book was also a great read, and more, a call to action for myself to evaluate how technology and social media impacted my life. The book is called ‘Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World’ by Cal Newport.

The gist is to value conversation over connection and to use technology to support what you value important, not what technology companies want.

The book is not about abandoning technology but to use it in the best way for you, but also with the goal of not feeling the need (addiction) to know what’s going on all the time through your smartphone and social media.

The term ‘slot-machine’ comes up a few times and has to do with the urge to refresh all of the time by swiping down (like a slot machine). This is what tech companies use to trick you to come back. A pshychological trick to generate dopamine, a feel good mechanism. This combined with the Fear Of Missing Out (FIMO) is a perfect mix for what is best described as an addiction.

What struck me more was the relation (based on research) between the introduction of smartphones and the rise of anxiety amongst kids, including a rise in suicides for that group. Apple (and other companies) may have done a great job at developing a smartphone, but, inadvertently has caused a social addiction with unknown (and knowd) consequences.

As a parent it’s something that i have to explain to my kids and hoping that they make the right decision. It’s not about keeping them off smartphones or social media or games. But more about the consequences when there is no balance in how you use it in your daily life. Not an easy taks for parents, since kids need to explore and be creative in their own way. Unfortunatly, being stuck to a (mobile) screen is not going to help them achieve that so for now we have to set some restrictions.

Our own system how to limit time involves 4 ‘coins’ which represent game/screentime. 1 Coin = 1 hour of game/screentime. Which for us works really well if you start early, then it becomes part of their system. How long we can maintain that system when the oldest goes to middle-school…..

After reading the book i was even more convinced we need to change things around. So what i did:

  • Removed facebook and linkedin from my phone (not my account)
  • Removed most apps i never used
  • Removed the games (which also apply the ‘dopamine’-trick)
  • Put app i steel feel relevant in a map, so not to clutter the screen.
  • Designated 2 nights as ‘no-screen’ (tv/netflix/app/games) night for everyone. In stead, do something else like reading or board-games or anything else but screentime.
  • Stop listening to music when i’m riding a bike to work (although it feels like relaxation, your brain does not)

Still on the list is to go out for more and longer walks, although that requires a bit more planning. The books describes walking (long walks) in nature as a great way to relax and clear your mind. It does this by proving some great examples, like President Lincoln. But the first results are already in, i don’t miss facebook at all. I don’t miss linkedin at all. I do check those accounts on a laptop now and then, but especially the added value of Facebook is close to zero. Also screenless-nights are more relaxing and i go to bed earlier often.

I would really recommend this book to anyone, but especially to people who use their smartphone for everything all of the time. I (You) don’t want to be that guy/dad that pays more attention to a screen than to his family. So hopefully, just like my battle with graves, i am able to change my lifestyle for the better and not just a temporary thing. Feeling less stressed and not worry all the time what’s going on in the world is more importat than ever.

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