Introduction to Digital Minimalism #3 A New Philosophy of Technology Usage

new philosophy of technology usage

Haven’t read the first digital minimalism post? Here:
#1 — Introduction
#2 — What are the big tech companies doing with us?

In the past, I’ve tried to detach myself from Instagram. Once a year, I spent a whole month without it, and I am always genuinely grateful for that experience. After that month, I have no desire to go back to Instagram. But after a few weeks, everything goes back to the way it was, and I fell back into my old patterns of behaviour.

This year, I made an ineffective attempt to set a limit of 30 minutes for Instagram and Snapchat on my iPhone. This means every day, after using one of the two apps for 30 minutes, I receive a notification: “Time limit reached.” And every day, I dismiss that notification with the “No limit today” button. I could say I’m fooling myself. It’s amusing how I tried to control myself and yet effortlessly ignore that limit.

The only thing that might have helped a little is turning off notifications from WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram. At least I don’t have the urge to grab my iPhone every time something appears on the screen. But it doesn’t really make a difference because I still unlock my darn phone too often, as if it’s a matter of life or death, opening Instagram first to refresh my feed and check for new notifications.

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My experiences were immediately validated by Cal Newport when I started reading the next chapter, where he describes his philosophy of digital minimalism. He begins by explaining that small tips and tricks are not enough to reform our digital lives. He claims:

“Based on my experience with these topics, it’s hard to reform your digital life by applying tips and tricks alone. The problem is that small changes are not sufficient to solve our big problems with new technologies. The underlying behaviours we hope to change are deeply rooted in our culture and, as I have argued, are supported by powerful psychological forces that drive our basic instincts. To regain control, we must go beyond small corrections and instead, fundamentally redesign our relationship with technology.”

So, I need a completely new philosophy of technology use that provides clear rules for which services I use and to what extent. I’m genuinely curious to see how well I adapt to Cal Newport’s philosophy if I miss anything, or how my life will change.

digital minimalism

Digital Minimalism:

Online time should be reduced to a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that support matters important to us. The remains of our digital lives should be happily abandoned.

Abandoning the rest of our digital lives? I’m not sure if I can do that. So, for now, I will definitely give up anything unnecessary. But somehow, I really enjoy social interaction with my friends on Instagram.

Principle 1: Clutter is costly.
Digital minimalists recognize that cluttering their time and attention with too many devices, apps, and services creates a negative balance that can outweigh each point’s small benefits when considered individually.
Principle 2: Optimization is crucial.
Digital minimalists believe that choosing a particular technology that supports something valuable to them is only the first step. To truly unlock its full potential, it’s necessary to consider how that technology should be used carefully.
Principle 3: Intentionality is fulfilling.
Digital minimalists experience great satisfaction through their overall commitment to handling new technologies more intentionally. This source of fulfilment is independent of the specific decisions they make and is one of the main reasons why digital minimalism tends to be highly meaningful for its practitioners.

Digital Decluttering

To return to a more conscious everyday life with less unnecessary social media use, Newport recommends a process called digital decluttering to restructure and regain control of our digital lives.

A thirty-day break from all optional technologies helps create more time for activities that truly fulfil us and contribute to personal or professional growth. After this break, from a more objective perspective, we can assess the value that services like Instagram and others provide and use these tools more deliberately and consciously instead of being distracted by them regularly.
Here’s an example of how my decluttering looked:
  • Uninstalling Instagram and Snapchat from my smartphone.
  • Consuming only informative content on Netflix and YouTube.
  • Turning off WhatsApp notifications.
  • Checking emails only once a day.
I’ve already gone through two thirty-day digital detox phases. What follows is a report on the results I achieved during my digital decluttering.
The first change I noticed was having a clearer mind with more space for my thoughts. I wasn’t constantly interrupted in my workflow, which allowed more time for focused, uninterrupted productivity.
Before I started my digital declutter, I also had this feeling of missing out if I didn’t use Instagram anymore or didn’t receive notifications from WhatsApp.
Honestly, I don’t think I could miss anything truly vital.
After the initial high, I quickly hit a low point. Following the first successes of the digital detox, I was plagued by thoughts that made me feel lonely. It’s no wonder—times spent waiting for a train or any other situation I used to fill with a quick glance at my phone are now phone-free moments.But what does that mean? I have time to listen to myself. Finally, I can give my attention to the voice inside my head that constantly broadcasts thoughts. Who is that voice, anyway? Is it me?
After all, my brain generates these thoughts… but I’m also the person who can hear those thoughts. So many questions arise when we stop constantly looking at the data clutter of our Instagram and start paying more attention to our inner world.In the early days of the digital detox, I wasn’t completely convinced. I often had negative thoughts and felt alone. One evening, I even had a small breakdown; I felt overwhelmed and helpless. As if Cal Newport could foresee it, on the day after my breakdown, I read the chapter in Newport’s book that fundamentally changed my perspective. That chapter was exactly what I needed that day, and I think it’s a nice conclusion for these posts about digital minimalism.
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