For the past years, I would passively consume information by surfing the internet by searching whatever popped in my brain. Back in middle school, I would enter rabbit holes on YouTube. I felt drained, exhausted, and confused about why I even used the computer in the first place. Sometimes, I felt like I was controlled by a computer. Because this activity took up quite a few hours of my time, I would beat myself up. Why was I wasting time on things that didn’t matter? Tired of this lifestyle, I was motivated to incorporate digital minimalism into my life. The journey of achieving digital minimalism was a long-term process that required experimentation. The word “digital minimalism” was coined by Cal Newport, an author that writes articles critiquing the use of technology. Cal Newport’s idea about digital minimalism comprises 3 parts. The first part was to take a break from optional technologies. Newport defines technologies as optional (Netflix, video games, social media, etc.) if they don’t cause problems in your professional lives. Optional technologies I used included reading blogs, watching YouTube, searching random things online, and messaging people. Thankfully, I stopped using social media 2 years ago. The second part was to replace these optional technologies with quality leisure that include hobbies and personal goals. These goals should have an appropriate deadline. For me, that would be playing a new piece on the piano or reading 4 books within a month. Once the experiment ends, the third part is to reintroduce technologies that are necessary to achieve your goals. An important thing to know is that the experiment is not a detox. Instead, it is an objective and conscious evaluation of which technologies have benefits that outweigh the negatives.
Although I still have some struggles, I have noticed some positive changes in my life. For my leisure time, I am reading a book or textbook instead of surfing the web right before I sleep. While reading, I noticed that there was this unusual quiet and calm feeling that had no background noise that occurs whenever I am browsing the internet. Instead of playing the same song at the senior center, I am practicing new songs on the piano so I can perform a new piece every month. Giving myself a realistic and personal goal has contributed to some personal growth that I would not find Another positive change is checking my email once a day. Before, I gave myself excuses that I was working, but I wasn’t working. Checking my email many times in a day was pseudo work because it doesn’t require deep work. By checking it at a specific time of the day, I am less likely to fragment my attention by pressing the “get new mail” button. My approach to checking email is also found as I check messages and websites once a week after Cold Turkey unblocks them at a given time. Over time, my former FOMO (fear of missing out) was replaced with JOMO (joy of missing out). After adopting these changes for a month, I was scared to go back to my old life. I didn’t like the idea of reintroducing optional technologies. I didn’t see the point of reading random blogs every week. What’s more, I didn’t find the idea of watching recommendations on YouTube thrilling. Sure, I gave myself less freedom by blocking distracting websites, but here is the paradox: what appeared to be less freedom was in fact more freedom. Therefore, I stuck to my lifestyle. To end this article, my question for you is this: is digital technology interfering with your personal goals and values? If so, how are you going to change that?