Saturday, July 4, 2020

A Good Read [Digital Minimalism]

Source: Google

The book "Digital Minimalism" balances the theoretical and practical aspect very well. Unlike books which expand heavily on theories, the author bothered to provide some recommended practice to assist readers to achieve digital minimalism.

Without going into the content, one might think that "digital minimalism" means getting rid of most, if not all of one's technological devices and social media apps. However, after reading the book, one will realise the essence of digital minimalism is actually digital essentialism, i.e. it is a way of life in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else. The general heuristic to digital minimalism is to consider the technology optional unless its temporary removal would harm or significantly disrupt the daily operation of your professional or personal life.

The author also reveals an ugly truth: Technology is not neutral because they want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that's how they make their money.

One might ask: why should I be a digital minimalist? Why is being a digital minimalist important?

The author answers this question with this: technologies nowadays are particularly designed to foster behaviour addictions even though they want you to think otherwise. The current unease with new technologies is not really about whether they are useful, but whether or not we, as users, still have the autonomy over how we spend our time, how we feel and how we behave.

Now that we understand how the author defines "digital minimalism", we now move on to some of the practices which would assist us in achieving digital minimalism.

1. Reintroducing Technology

To do this you will need to start with deleting all social media applications on your phone and slowly introducing the essential applications back one by one, only if they pass your strict minimalist standards. For each technology, determine what value it serves and how to maximise the value. The aim is to protect how you spend your time.

Some people may feel Instagram allows them to catch up with their friends' lives and not to feel FOMO but minimalists don't mind missing out on small things; what worries them much more is diminishing the large things that they already know for sure make a good life good.

Knowing what your friend ate for his/her dinner last weekend wouldn't help you in any way in building a meaningful and fulfilling life. Just want to make that clear.

2. Learn to spend time alone

The author raises a few case studies on how solitude would encourage brilliant ideas and thoughts. Solitude gives you new ideas, an undertaking of the self, and closeness to others. The idea is that if you spend more time alone, then you would cherish relationship with others better. Similarly, you can't really be ready to love someone else unless you have come to terms with who you are as an independent person.

The first step to this is to learn how to spend time without your phone.

3. Focus on real-life interaction 

Social media tends to take people away from the real-world socializing that's massively more valuable. The author cautions against the phenomenon when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with 'likes' on a post.

To the author, the button "like" replaces the rich flow of information generated by face-to-face interaction as it is an insult to our social processing machinery. "Like" doesn't mean anything, it is the briefest and most superficial emotion and/or reaction.

4. Reclaim your leisure

Learn how to spend time wisely. Prioritise demanding activity over passive consumption. Seek crafts in its analog forms. Learn how to consolidate texts and reply at specific timings in the day. Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.

The author introduced the Bennett Principle - the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is charge - not rest, except in sleep. Read more of this principle in Arnold Bennett's book "How to live on 24 Hours a Day".

5. Join the Attention Resistance

The "attention economy" describes the business sector that makes money gathering consumers' attention and then repackaging and selling it to advertisers. This is essentially what the self-proclaimed social media influencers are doing. They have a crowd of followers, and they are not interested in that crowd for its money but they are re-selling the crowd's attention to the advertisers/brands who want their attention. This is known as the "New York Sun" business model by Tim Wu. Such a brilliant description.

The author advises that we should see social media applications like Facebook and Instagram as offering a variety of different free services that we can carefully sift through and use in a manner that optimizes the value we receive. Learn how to limit the Instagram accounts you follow. Make sure they provide the value you appreciate. Avoid compulsive click cycles.

Concluding Remarks

Scrolling through perfectly curated Instagram feeds, binge watching Crash Landing on You and creating funny tiktok videos can be therapeutic. However, overdoing it is going to harm your soul long term because there is little to no real benefit you can gain from doing these. They won’t give you better job prospects, help you with critical thinking, improve your knowledge and skills, tone your body, keep your body healthy and fit etc.

It’s alarming how some technology are designed in a way that is so damaging - it consumes our precious time and soul without even us knowing. The length of Instagram stories are designed to hook on to our attention and keep us wanting to tap through more and more contents. People get annoyed why they couldn’t upload longer videos. But little did they know Instagram wanted exactly that. This is because long videos would lose your attention easily, especially the boring ones. But 10 seconds of a boring video? It will be gone before you realise it’s boring.

The self-proclaimed influencers capitalize on their following to earn income so they produce content that people like to watch but may not be beneficial to them. Some of us follow them for the giveaways and promo codes, but trust me, improving your skills and knowledge and learning how to invest would enable you to grow your wealth in the right way as compared to relying on competing with 2000 over people for a giveaway of items worth $200 or promo codes that would only give you a 15% discount with a minimum spend of $80. Trust me, you miss out more in life if you are following 200 over Instagram accounts without scrutinizing the value they bring to you.


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