Photo Credit: pexels
For several years, we’ve been hearing about people taking a “digital detox” to help get their lives back in order. We’ve been hearing stories about teens and young adults who have allowed social media and their smartphones to take over and ruin their lives. And we’re just starting to wake up as a society to how closely smartphone addiction resembles traditional drug addiction. So it’s perhaps no surprise that a new lifestyle philosophy called Digital Minimalism is starting to gain momentum amongst people who are burned out and disillusioned with the 24/7 digital lifestyle.
Digital Minimalism vs. Techno-Maximalism
The primary tenet of Digital Minimalism is that people need to reclaim control of their lives from devices and platforms. And it all starts with (naturally) a 30-day detox of all technology that is not absolutely necessary for functioning in the real world. Thus, you might not be able to shut off your email for 30 days, but you can certainly turn off Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And you can safely turn your smartphone off, too, especially if your current routine involves instinctively reaching for it as soon as you wake up in the morning.
The opposite of Digital Minimalism is something that Cal Newport, author of “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World,” refers to as Techno-Maximalism. The primary tenet of this philosophy can be summed up in five words: “More is better than less.” This misguided thinking, says Newport, is what led us to where we are today, where every new app, every new gadget and every new digital platform is supposed to make our lives better, richer, and more interesting.
The false promise of digital devices and platforms
But is that really the case? Most people, grudgingly, would probably admit that spending 50 minutes on Facebook per day is not the best use of their time. In fact, as Newport points out, 99 percent of all value that you derive from Facebook is worth about 20 minutes of your time on a Sunday. What most people don’t realize, says Newport, is that there are opportunity costs from smartphone usage. Every 30 minutes that you spend interacting with your smartphone is 30 minutes that you don’t spend interacting with real people in real life. And, even worse, when you do finally meet up with a friend for a weekend brunch in real life, one or both of you is probably interrupting that meeting by reaching for the smartphone.
Five years from now, suggests Newport, we’ll look at our smartphones the same way that we look at a pack of cigarettes. Would you hand a 13-year-old a pack of cigarettes? Of course not! So why are so many parents handing their 13-year-old teens a smartphone? That’s actually a profound question, and one that many mental health counselors and therapists are just starting to consider.
In pursuit of the right digital lifestyle philosophy
The really interesting point that Newport makes is that, in order for society to change, their needs to be a “named philosophy” for people to rally behind. For example, “Vegan” and “Paleo” have each become a “named philosophy” to describe how people are embracing healthier food options in their daily life as a response to rampant obesity and chronic health issues. These philosophies have very specific rules and guidelines for what you can and cannot eat – and that makes them easier to follow than simply saying something vague like, “I’m going to eat healthy.”
So think of “Digital Minimalism” as a starting point for creating splinter movements amongst the techno-skeptics. This is a chance for digital marketing experts to get really creative and help to define how we lead our lives. (“Zuck-heads,” for example, might become a movement of people who ditch all digital platforms except Facebook.) But one thing is certain: several years from now, most of us will look back at our smartphones and social media usage, and realize how much time we’ve wasted in our lives.