Digital Minimalism - drastic action!
I have in the last few years grown more and more frustrated with myself (!) with the use of my smartphone. I’m not sure I’m alone in trying to find ways to lower my consumption of social media, I've tried apps to track usage, I've tried deleting apps, it's never really worked long term.
Don’t get me wrong tech is amazing, I currently have a 100% online business so lets not get too confused, I love what tech has done for us, especially how it allows me to be with my family. In addition, I know alot of my clients especially who are housebound rely on their phones and social media to connect them to friends and the outside world, again, I was the same only a few years ago, it certainly has it's benefits.
But I find myself logging 4 hours a DAY on my phone, what the heck am I even doing! Scrolling, checking my bank 3x a day (why!), texting friends pointless memes, sending voice notes instead of having a proper conversation, who knows.
I think the current lockdown has invoked A LOT of thinking time for me, what I want my life to be, what I want to cut out and not add back in, where is this journey taking myself and my family. I have to say, I enjoy the simplicity of lockdown, but I also don’t feel the need anymore to be connected to the world 24/7. I get nervous how they store our data, I get nervous how these media giants can censor us and control what we do or don't see. I worry how much control they have.
I’ve wrestled with this fact for years now because I’ve built an online business mainly through Instagram, clients mainly find me through word of mouth or Instagram, so I’m hooked I feel a pressure to stay. But is this a true fact or am I making excuses?
Then recently my 2 year old was playing and he came over and said to me ‘Mummy, phone off” I broke. I felt awful. Just to be clear, I am not a mum who sits on her phone all day, but this hit me hard, he was so right. I was missing what he was doing because I was scrolling people I don’t even know on a social media app.
Then my phone cracked (it was already very very cracked) but I thought I better get this fixed, upwards of £70 later it was fixed… for 24 hours! This was draining my bank account aswell.
Is it time to jump in the deep end and switch it back to a Nokia which can only do texts and calls? Or am I dreaming?
I read a book – Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – if you’re feeling the same as I am, read it. If you love your phone and it connects you, probably don’t bother.
The book presents some statistics, stating that people born after 1995 are more addicted to tech and have much higher rates of poor mental health. We all know the UK is in a mental health crisis right now (and that was even before covid) and a lot of it can be correlated with the introduction of social media and phone usage, comparisons, having to look a certain way 24/7, unrealistic role models etc. My husband was born in 1995 and there is a stark difference between how the two of us use tech. He wears headphones all day everyday (much to my concern), it seems to me that era have never not known this world of smartphones, they have been around this tech since they can remember so it’s much more normal. However, those born even slightly earlier, I was born 1990, remember a simpler time.
There are so many scientific studies we need to pay more attention to such as this one https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140197116300343?via%3Dihub – anxiety, poor sleep, depression and low self esteem among teens.
I think we all know this, but what are we doing to fix it? I’ve talked about this with clients for YEARS. No tech after 9pm, minimising phone use but I struggle myself, I think this takes for more drastic changes.
The book really cemented my feelings on this matter of phone use, he recommends a digital minimalism challenge (I already love minimalism, check out the Netlfix documentary and podcast. Why do I need 15 t-shirts for 7 days a week? Why does my son need 10 pairs of PJS? Why does he need so many toys so much so he’s overwhelmed. I think we often buy bigger houses and mortgage ourselves higher to house all our stuff! – Anyway I digress). The challenge is 30 days with no smartphone and most people didn’t go back. They found new hobbies, they learnt languages, they started business, they read books, they actually phoned and saw friends.
I thought there is something to this. I am addicted and this is going cold turkey. I decided to really assess.
What do I need a smart phone for? My personal main uses are:
Online banking – I can use a laptop for this
Podcasts – I can use a laptop for this…
Photos – get a camera
Texts – can use a nokia for texts
Whatsapp – yes I cannot replicate group chats but then again I have a huge amount of group chats which I cannot keep up with!
Weather – I can look out the window like people have done for thousands of years… if I really cared I could check online
Shopping – I can use a laptop and probably won’t do as many impulse purchases
Email – laptop and then I don’t need to check it as often
Health logging and monthly cycle apps – good old fashioned pen and paper, I now track my cycle in my diary, my moods, exercise etc.
Calendar – can have this on my laptop or good old fashioned diary
Clock – I bought a watch (ground-breaking hey)
What will I do with my extra 4 hours a day? I did it for a weekend. I got a Nokia and I text my key people the number for emergencies. I did not miss my phone once, not once. I turned it on again on Monday morning and I really didn’t want to go back. I was playing with my son and I felt so present I wasn’t leaving to check a text which just came through on a group chat which doesn’t even concern me… it’s crazy.
In the book Cal Newport explains he has never had a social media account, friends say to him “Oh you HAVE to get Facebook” he replies “Why? What’s so good about it?”
They had no answer… “Well, there might be something on there you need to know” or maybe not.
I deleted my Facebook account in late July because I felt it had mainly become a political page for people to shame and share their own views on Covid (ok fine me included) but it wasn’t helpful, I can talk to friends about this but I don’t need to argue with people online because of it. (The one thing I do miss from Facebook is FB marketplace, I am a fan of buying second hand and recycling so that’s a tricky one).
How this will look in real life will be a work in progress, maybe I will upload once a month on Instagram via my desktop to keep in touch with my business and share my blogs?
Maybe in 6 months I’ll be screaming to re-join the digital world again? Who knows. Or maybe I’ll save lots of money from not paying for a phone contract!
I see more and more how society is addicted to certain elements and I do believe they make it like that. We are addicted to our phones, to our social media, to our shopping, to our capitalism society. We are on a treadmill and lockdown has taught me I’d like to step off for a while and look at the bigger picture. Maybe I’ll find I’ve got an idealistic view of the ‘good old days’ and maybe I’ll find living in the 21st century whilst being disconnected from tech just doesn’t work. Or maybe I’ll find it was the best thing I ever did.
Resources: Cal Newport and Dr Chatterjee podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/50-how-social-media-could-be-making-you-ill-with-cal-newport/id1333552422?i=1000429458870
The Minimalists podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-minimalists-podcast/id1069757084?i=1000433442579
Digital Minimalism Book https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Digital-Minimalism-by-Cal-Newport-author/9780241453575