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Book Reviews

Digital Minimalism by Calvin Newport – Book Review

The Digital Age. It is one of the ways we can caricaturize our society nowadays. Social media is everywhere, it is almost impossible to not be a part of it. It might be because your job now puts everything in a Facebook group, that you need to make a Facebook account; or because you need to promote your product, you have to install Instagram. But most of the times we use it to stay ‘connected’ to the world. Technology is something wonderful but there are questions to be asked if the we control the technology or if technology is controlling us.

            I don’t know about you, but I used to spend a lot of times on social media services. I was watching YouTube videos for thirty minutes whenever I needed to go to the toilet. I checked my Facebook feed whenever I needed to wait for the bus. I wasted quite a lot of time on this, mostly viewing things I had no interest in viewing, just because I wanted to kill time.

            Nowadays I’m pretty chill towards social media technologies. I don’t have any social media on my phone, I only check messenger instead of Facebook and I don’t have a Twitter account. Still lately I felt like I was spending too much time on my computer. This was not productive time. I need my computer for school and all kinds of projects. My computer is essential, yet I felt like I was using it wrong. I am too easily distracted, whenever I got bored, I immediately went to Reddit or YouTube to save me from my dreaded boredom and study work. This resulted in a link. Whenever I would want to start studying, I would immediately feel the need to escape. Since this was hindering my schoolwork, I searched for a solution.

            Enter Digital Minimalism. Minimalism has become pretty mainstream in today’s society. Consume less to achieve more is in my opinion a great way of living life. And it is necessary that we apply this concept to our digital space as well. This book gives a great introduction to the concept of digital minimalism and ways we can achieve it.

            The book is practical, and it starts with the idea of a technological detox. This means that any optional technologies are to be left behind for a whole month. Optional technologies mean technologies which aren’t absolutely necessary for your inner life. For example, if you need to use WhatsApp for your job than that is fine, but you can only use it for that specific situation. It means that watching YouTube videos which you take nothing out of, are a no go. Also mindlessly scrolling your Facebook or Instagram feed are forbidden. This will not limit you. In a way it will set you free. If you’re constantly on your phone, you are being ‘captured’ by the device. Social media is wired to make you addicted to it. This doesn’t make you freer, it makes you more of a slave to your phone.

            But taking away all the optional technologies will make you feel bored in the beginning. You won’t know what to do. And the first thing you’ll do, when not knowing what to do, is using those social media apps. Because of this you need a plan. You need to plan what you’ll be doing in the technology-free month. Maybe you could start that new hobby that you wanted to try out? For me it is creating music, which ironically, I use my computer for. But I only use it for that exact purpose. The thing isn’t that you shouldn’t use technology, the thing is that you should use the technology that actually benefits your life and promotes self-development. Sending a message to a friend far away might benefit your life, scrolling Facebook for two hours certainly doesn’t.

            After you finish the month, you now can pat yourself on the back. You have proved that technology doesn’t dominate your life. You now have the power over technology. You can reintroduce the optional technologies back into your life. The key point being chose which technologies you want to reintroduce. You can think about what technologies actually benefit your life, increase the meaning in your life, and reintroduce them accordingly. You now have more control over on aspect of your life.

            Calvin Newport goes much more in depth into the concept of digital minimalism and why it is worth trying out. I can honestly say that it has improved my life for the better. I am now doing the digital detox as well. The first week was hard and I caught myself multiple times going to the websites which I tried to avoid. I ended up installing a website blocker so I couldn’t access those websites anymore for a certain period of time. But now (I’m at week 3) I have less urges to go to those websites. Instead I made a couple of songs and I finally restarted drawing. These are much more meaningful activities than being glued to a screen the whole day. For anyone who believes there use of technology can be improved, I would recommend this book. It is pretty straightforward knowledge but necessary nonetheless. Technology is becoming more and more dominating in our society and the world. It is more important than ever than to ask the question how we want it to influence our lives.

By elenchusphilosophy

I'm a Philosophy student in Belgium, trying to talk and write about ideas of all kinds of sorts.

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