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Posts Tagged ‘digital minimalism’

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Last month our colleague Dr. Mark Light wrote an article about digital minimalism and encouraged us to take a 30-day digital decluttering challenge. Like Mark, I made the decision to delete the Facebook app from my phone this past year, and I have to say I don’t miss it! I was finding that for me, the stress and frustration I experience when I see political banter and misinformation circulating social media outweighs the joy of sharing personal photos, experiences, and updates on a regular basis. I now check Facebook about once a week from a browser to make sure I’m not missing any major life updates from close friends and family, but it is no longer part of my daily life. In doing so, I have found a way to personally practice digital minimalism – “a philosophy of technology use” from Cal Newport “in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

While this approach has worked for me, I recognize that not everyone may be ready to take such drastic actions as deleting social media apps from devices, even if they feel the urge to do some digital detoxing. In fact, some experts acknowledge that it may not be realistic to completely “break up” with social media. Chris Stedman, author of IRL: Finding realness, meaning and belonging in our digital lives, says “if we’re going to have a healthier relationship with social media, we’ve got to stop thinking of it as a mindless activity and start thinking of it as a meaningful one with the potential to reveal certain truths about ourselves.”

gardening gloves weeding a garden

Doing regular self-reflection and decluttering, much like a gardener would regularly check on and weed their garden space, can help you enjoy and find meaning in your social media use. For example, rather than endlessly scrolling through a social media feed, you might choose to stop regularly and assess what emotions are evoked by the content you’re reading. Does your social media use bring you joy and amusement, or does it leave you feeling anxious, discouraged, or frustrated? If the latter, you may do some decluttering by choosing to unfollow certain people or accounts. Taking regular breaks from social media can also be helpful. These are not permanent break-ups, but more like sabbaticals or vacations to disconnect and see life from a different perspective.

Whether you choose to become a digital minimalist or to simply do some digital decluttering, I encourage you to consider how digital detoxing could benefit you today.

Sources:

Aina, M. (2021). Glued to your phone? Here’s how to rethink your relationship with social media. NPR Life Kit. https://www.npr.org/2021/07/16/1016854764/social-media-balance-relationship-boundaries

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.

Reviewed by Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

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With a year of COVID behind us, we found that not being able to have face to face meetings and events forced us into more digital means of connecting. Youth experienced online school, employees worked from home, and even our entertainment and socialization involved technology – and all of this technology in our homes caused a digital fatigue. While there was somewhat of a reprieve in the summer, our smartphones still kept us digitally connected.

In September 2020, I discovered a book by Cal Newport, a Computer Science Faculty member at Georgetown University, called Digital Minimalism. He defines digital minimalism as “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else”. Ironically, even though he teaches Computer Science, he has never been on social media. The other interesting thing I found was that he authored this book pre-Covid. Even though I enjoy technology and like to stay up on the latest digital gadgets, I was already feeling the fatigue of being attached to my phone 24/7. I decided to take his 30-day digital decluttering challenge consisting of three steps:

  1. Define your technology rules and limit your technology use
  2. Take a 30-day break from a specific technology, i.e., social media
  3. Reintroduce technology slowly

I decided to take a 30 day break from Facebook, which for those who know me is a challenging thing to do, as I have been on Facebook for 15 years. On October 4, I deleted the app off my devices and told my co-workers I would not be on Facebook for a month. While not intentional, my 30-day experiment ended the day after the Presidential election, so the biggest joy that I had was not having to see all the political banter. Overall, I only felt I missed two things while I was not on Facebook for 30 days: my daughter’s senior pictures that the photographer posted, and her senior night volleyball pictures, which my wife showed me on her phone. Prior to this experiment I was spending two hours a day on Facebook, or 1/12 of my day, or essentially one month of each year!

Cal Newport shares other ways of continuing in digital minimalism after completing the initial 30-day challenge, such as deleting apps on your phone that you frequent the most. I never put the Facebook app back on my phone after last November, and I now have to log in to a web browser to see Facebook. This extra step makes it harder to connect and I do not log on too frequently. Ultimately, most of us remember a time when we survived without being connected 24/7. I encourage you to set your own 30-day digital minimalism challenge, and then keep exploring ways to reduce your technology use and “happily miss out on everything else”.

Sources:

Alevizou, G. (2020). Virtual schooling, Covid-gogy and digital fatigue. Parenting for a Digital Future. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/parenting4digitalfuture/2020/04/08/virtual-schooling-covid-gogy/

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Mark D. Light, Ph.D., Leader, Ohio 4-H STEM & Digital Engagement Innovations

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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