"Something's in the air. I think people are finally getting fed up with how much of their humanity they're losing to always staring at these screens."
CAL NEWPORT, author of Digital Minimalism.
This post allows some gratitude and recognition to flow towards the good that technology brings, and it is also what I like to think of as the ‘answer’- or as close as we can get to it at the moment- that being words on digital minimalism and choice.
Smart phones have brought us obscene levels of convenience, communication and connection. I believe there are dark and light sides to each of these.
The lighter sides:
Google maps. Being able to move relatively seamlessly throughout a city we don’t know, or a beautiful patch of the countryside, without a map, is a gift of ease and freedom in many ways. It perhaps allows us to travel to new spots we wouldn’t have otherwise known about, make our journeys shorter by taking traffic into account, and I even have an app to notify me of speed cameras and police on the roads. Brilliant.
Food delivery. Ordering in can be such a treat, and the options one can have in a city is phenomenal. It’s no longer greasy fish and chips at the local; you could have vegan sushi, any type of burger there is, and even delicious wine delivered straight to your door.
Photos. We have the option to capture every single precious moment. Some of those moments held more strongly through the freeze of it in our camera roll. We can share these precious moments with others.
Googling. Well there’s a lot here, literally. Any question that pops into your head, you can immediately most likely find the answer you’re looking for. Knowledge quite literally at your fingertips. Your questions can be put to bed, instead of having to route around in books, freeing up more time for the important stuff (at least that’s the idea).
Social Media. An artists paradise, a hub of social grassroots movements, free (ish) marketing for small businesses, comedy gold. Social media can be a place of inspiration, for connection, it can even be a place for finding love.
These are my selected points of appreciation and what I still allow to sit on my phone for the convenience and utility they bring to my life.
The darker sides I could not help but include:
I do believe however that the convenience can also be a bit of a trap, especially when overused. Overusing deliveroo will not lead to a healthy body or bank account. Overusing maps will not lead to you stumbling upon that remote beach not marked on google maps as a place of interest. Overusing google search doesn’t actually seem to lead to significant intellectual growth, rather it retracts the ability to sometimes just wonder about things. Oh yes and photos, we have become obsessed with documenting every single moment of our lives, often taking us away from the present moment. Social media addiction is so very real and can be incredibly detrimental to our mental health, it is a place filled with ego, misinformation and it is hour by hour, day by day, shortening our attention spans.
So there are my caveats, I couldn’t help myself. Find more on the damaging effects of overuse in my previous blog post- The Bad News.
The real good news is, there are new found solutions to our device overuse.
Digital Minimalism is the concept created by Cal Newport that I believe is here to save us all. There are visionaries out there that are anti-smart phone, anti- social media and I respect and applaud their movement and many of their arguments. If you are completely overwhelmed by your devices and gain very little value from them, then you have full autonomy to walk away with your data and your sanity in tact. However, personally, I am more curious as to how we can move with the times, utilise the advancement in technology and the power of choice. And this is what Cal explores in great depth in his book.
Digital minimalism is inspired by the concept of minimalism. It is all about simplifying and awareness. Evaluating the pros and cons of every device, every app, every new feature that comes our way. Awareness of a situation is the first step to change. You do not have to hate every aspect of technology in your life to recognise that you need change. I am no luddite myself. So much of my business is run online- my marketing, my communication, my outreach- I appreciate this modern freedom. However I also need peace of mind, solitude to let ideas and thoughts percolate, and to be selective with my consumption.
We always have a choice. Our choices make up our life. Are you actively choosing to spend 4 hours of your precious day scrolling on social media, or is this a passive decision? Is this a decision that you are at peace with having made?
"We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom"
Cal Newport recommends starting with a digital detox. This is where we come in, our retreats facilitate such a detox, as a starting point for digitally decluttering your existence. We need to roam the fields of freedom to realise the conditions we are currently in. Days away from your phone are shown to help reset and recalibrate the nervous system and soothe the mind from constant communication and influence from the outside world.
Upon reemergence from the retreat or your own digital detox, it is time to rethink what is truly useful and essential to you, and what is not.
Do you need to be on social media?
If the answer is yes, do you need to be on all of them? Which is most important to you, twitter, instagram, facebook? What do you actually get from each one. If you do decide to go back on, what accounts will you follow, which ones will you not? What apps bring convenience that outweigh laziness, that genuinely free up time? I highly recommend getting a notebook and pen out and sitting for 10 minutes reflecting on these questions. Or airing them out with a friend.
Or are you like me, do you use social media mainly for creation and marketing?
If so, how can you create boundaries around your consumption? The instagram algorithm is wired against digital minimalists, but there are ways around it. The first hour after you post is important for engagement, answering comments, responding to dms, but after that hour has surpassed, I suggest letting it go- take that time away from your phone. So if you organise an hour of your day to post, to create stories, to mindfully enjoy other creators' content that inspires you, and then to respond to feedback and comments- after that, time's up for the day. Turn off the notifications and put a time limit on the app. Practice discipline in this way until it sticks and becomes habit. Structure is freedom. If you use social media as an instant messaging platform- I would strongly advise against this. Gradually move your conversations to text or WhatsApp for friends and family, and email for business. State your desire for this and eventually people understand, especially if you become unresponsive. Use the instant messaging on instagram simply for 'laughing crying' responses to people’s stories and quick compliments and questions to those who you wouldn’t necessarily open up a full-on text back and forth. Cocoon yourself in boundaries.
"Structure is freedom"
In summary, we need to learn to be more conscious with our choices when it comes to our devices. Remember you do have a choice, always. Take the digital detox, either by booking onto one of our immersive retreats or simply carve out a long weekend to step away, and from there take note of how you feel, and how device use may be affecting you. Delete apps that deplete energy rather than give, put time limits on your apps and cultivate discipline around this. I'll leave it there for now, I'm sure this is enough information to digest and reflect upon.
For more information on how to digitally declutter and evaluate your relationship to your phone- I would highly recommend reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, and of course to keep tabs on this blog. I would so appreciate if you do choose to be on instagram, that you would follow/share/tag @offgridyoga so we can spread the word- the irony has not surpassed me here, but alas Instagram, email and website is how I have chosen to communicate and consume, all with strict boundaries and limits. There is so much freedom in carefully curated boundaries. Good luck with creating yours!