Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

1. Not your screentime

Many people come to the topic of Digital Minimalism looking to be freed from the constant connection of feeds, the traps of big tech, and the overwhelming anxiety of never-ending bells, pings, and funny sounds emanating from our phones.

Some plunge into a digital detox phone or service while others place blockers on their phones to reduce the new hot metric from Apple and Google: “Screen Time.” This metric was supposed to help us find balance through analyzing the apps that control our attention, but it ended up being used to bring shame into our lives as we compared who had the least amount of phone use throughout the day.

Screentime was supposed to help us find balance through its metrics, but it ended up bringing shame as we compared each other’s numbers.

Yet, the minimizing of screentime and reducing the number of hours watching your favorite shows is not what defines Digital Minimalism. The whole philosophy behind the practice is to analyze our behaviors and select the aspects of the digital world that bring meaning, joy, and help us in our journey. Yes, it is nice to have more time outside, learn a new skill, woodwork, read more books, or whatever you are into. Since getting my Light Phone 2, I’ve enjoyed more of my life and reduced my distractions. But screentime is not the metric to determine whether you are on the journey of Digital Minimalism or not. Screen time is a small indicator of what it means to be a Digital Minimalist.

Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

2. Not the number or type of devices you have

Another thought that is usually brought into the mix is how many and the type of devices people possess. Generally Digital Minimalism is associated with a form of neo-luddism. People think that Digital Minimalists have basic phones, no computers, and own little to no tech in order to reduce the metric mentioned above, screen time. However, this idea is far from the truth. Digital Minimalism is about optimizing how we use our devices to bring joy into our lives. The metric is not based on the type of device one owns, but the way the device is used.

Digital Minimalism is about optimizing how we use our devices to bring joy into our lives.

A prime example is the difference between my Desktop and my previous iPhone. I used to do everything on my iPhone: text, calls, social media, email, WhatsApp, zoom meetings, taking pictures, you name it, the iPhone had the ability to do it. However, I started to realize that my iPhone was not the best at all of these. It was proficient at some and cumbersome at others. Even as developers have tried to go mobile first, some activities are just better done on a desktop or a dedicated device. By being a jack of all trades, my iPhone was limiting me from optimizing my workflow and improving my productivity. It became a crutch that I could rely to start a project, but I had to always finish it on my Desktop. Thus, I asked myself what I needed my phone for. I made a list of the essentials I needed on the go (calls, texts, music, and podcasts) and another list of items that could be done faster, better, and more reliably until I got home or the office.

This clear delineation made me realize that I didn’t need an iPhone reminding me of my meetings, constantly pinging me, and robbing my attention with every little work project. It could wait. I didn’t reduce the number of devices I owned. I increased them. I, now, have a GPS, a music player, and a basic phone, not because my iPhone couldn’t do any of those things, but because getting rid of it optimized my workflow.

Therefore, the type and number of devices does not define a digital minimalist. It’s about how optimal one can make the usage of those devices.

Photo by Eneko Uruñuela on Unsplash

3. It's about priorities

As Cal Newport puts it on his book by the same name, “Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.”

Think about that for a second. It’s not about what services you use, or the time you spend on the internet, or how little you use your iPhone or other devices. It’s about setting your priorities first and aligning your digital use according to those priorities. It may or may not involve sacrifice, but it is about you. It’s about how much time you want to spend with your kids, or whether learning a language is actually important to you. Digital Minimalism is about creating a framework that allows you to achieve your goals. We can argue as to whether learning a language through Duolingo or a professional class is more effective. Yet, if Duolingo brings you joy and is aligned with your priorities, go at it. Analyze whether it is best to use it on a desktop or your phone. Make it about you and your priorities, have a personal digital minimalism experience, and don’t let anyone shame you because of that extra screentime on Duolingo.

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Digital Minimalist. Dumbphone Enthusiast.

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Jose Briones

Jose Briones

Digital Minimalist. Dumbphone Enthusiast.

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