Embracing Digital Minimalism

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As Cal Newport wrote in his bestseller Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Digital Minimalism is:

“A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimised activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

It's a fascinating idea to consider using technology as only a tool to support your values and ignore all the aspects that don't actively lead to furtherance of your goals, even though it is obviously easier said than done.

Technology companies have developed this addictive cycle of 'want' over the course of the last couple of decades, making us throw away perfectly good technology in favour of a very similar 'upgraded' version of the same device year after year. On the software side of things the outlook is similar: keep the user clicking through an endless stream of information mindlessly day after day, so they see more and more advertising that nets the company ever-increasing profits.

I know the outlook sounds bleak, but it doesn't have to be that way. When you ask yourself 'Why am I using this social media platform?' it's usually because you feel you'll be missing out on something if you're not connected to your friends. Sure, it's nice to see pictures of what they are doing, but there are other ways to connect with friends, and they are posting their content out to the world in a very unfocused way because they too have less time thanks to the social media onslaught. If they sent those pictures via WhatsApp or MMS message to a select group of people, the result would feel more personal and they wouldn't have the hassle of trying to maintain a pool of hundreds of 'friends', most of whom they haven't truly spoken to in years.

To help combat this issue in my everyday life, I've made the switch from a PC to a Chromebook in my everyday life. It isn't devoid of social media presence; quite the opposite, but it has far fewer distractions and it's essentially made for typing. I'm also planning on ditching my smartphone for a mobile phone. I refuse to call it a dumb phone because in a way that's something I feel is a technique used by companies to prevent people from buying them. Why would you want to own anything 'dumb'?

The phones I have my sights set on are the MP02 from Punkt, and the Light Phone II. Both offer data tethering, and I can connect my Chromebook to them when I am out and about. This means I'll have to find somewhere to sit, open the laptop, connect to the Internet and begin working. Using a computer becomes an intentional activity, and this prevents walking around glued to a screen all day.

As an avid photographer, it also means I can carry my proper camera with me instead of my phone and concentrate on making better images. The Chromebook even supports Lightroom and Photoshop and sports an SD card slot, so I can edit pictures while I enjoy a responsible socially-distanced cup of take-away coffee when I am out.

I believe this new plan I've devised begins to fall into what Cal described in the quote above. I'm focusing on a small number of activities I value, rather than mindlessly flicking through social media apps. I've never been so happy to be ignorant of what others are doing in their day to day lives!

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