When I came across the concept of digital detoxes, a cavern of butterflies exploded in my chest. It may sound silly, but the idea of taking time off from my digital spheres simply hadn’t occurred to me before – a detox sounded like a dream!
Since then, I’ve regularly made time to take breaks away from existing online.
This year has been more difficult than ever. Working online, socializing online, navigating lockdowns and shut-ins, and removing pretty much any form of contacting those I care about without using digital has been impossible.
I managed to take one month off completely from things like social media in previous years, but it hasn’t felt possible this year. So, instead of a complete detox, I’ve been thinking about how to invite more digital minimalism into my life.
Digital detox versus digital minimalism: what’s the difference?
If you didn’t feel it before the pandemic, you’ve probably had a few instances in the past year where you just felt done with living through a screen.
The American Psychological Association conducts the Stress in America survey annually. In 2020, one-fifth of adult Americans stated that technology is a significant source of stress in their life.
It adds up from checking work emails out of hours, maintaining social media, reading the news, responding to the messages, and group chats. It quickly consumes our days when we don’t consciously consider how much time we’re glued to screens.
Digital detoxes and digital minimalism can help, but there’s a difference between how to apply them:
1. Digital detox: A digital detox involves taking a complete digital, technology, and screen-free break for a set amount of time. It’s about reducing your attachment to screens down to the bare minimum. A digital detox could be a few hours, a few days, a week, or a month. It’s a great reset to break the impulsive itch we all have to keep checking our phones.
2. Digital minimalism: Digital minimalism takes the idea of a digital detox but applies it more broadly across your day-to-day. Inviting digital minimalism into your life requires a more thoughtful process as you reflect on the role of technology and assess how it’s adding or removing value. It’s about asking yourself the questions behind why you might be turning to your devices and what else you could be doing that would better aid your life, emotional health, and sense of balance.
Three ways to start adding digital minimalism into your life
Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, has this to say about pursuing digital minimalism in our lives:
“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 matter can significantly improve your life.”
I’m a big fan of clearing away clutter and the headspace it creates. When I feel like I’m not achieving goals in other areas of my life, returning to the space I’m deliberately creating and curating to accomplish those goals can help me remove roadblocks.
Thinking about how I use digital tools and engage digitally is no exception. Here are three ways to add more digital minimalism into your life in 2022:
1. Start with where you find value.
This involves re-examining what the various digital spaces in your life are there for and if they’re offering you value. Everything online has something to offer, but with so much out there, we must make sure we’re cultivating the things that provide our worth as individuals.
One example for me has been LinkedIn. I used to check it every day, but I realized this was more out of habit than getting value from using the platform – it hasn’t been offering me much in return for the time and energy I put into it.
There are other platforms where I put in similar energy but get more back in terms of professional value. So, I’ve deleted the app and signed out of the site on my browser – it doesn’t need any more of my time right now.
2. Remove all the clutter.
I have a gazillion photos of my dachshund sleeping and generally looking cute AF. My desktop is littered with screenshots, half-finished documents, and research materials for old projects. I receive at least a dozen emails a day from outlets I’m no longer interested in.
We often put off tidying up these things because it takes energy, but going back to my point about how consciously creating and curating space for clarity can lead to great things – tidying up this virtual clutter can be impactful.
I’m popping two hours in my calendar a week and dedicating them purposefully to having a digital clutter clearout – starting with my email inbox!
3. Ask ‘does it spark joy?’
Marie Kondo got this question into our collective dialogue, and while many of us applied it to our kitchen cupboards and wardrobes, we didn’t do the same with our digital possessions.
I like how Cal Newport advises us to be wary of digital tools that say they solve a problem that didn’t exist before the tool. He gives examples of how GPS and Google help to solve problems, but Snapchat does not.
Moving ahead, before I download, purchase, or get involved in any new digital thing, I’m asking the questions: Does this solve a problem I have? Does it spark joy? Is it going to help me achieve my goals?
Achieving our goals with digital minimalism
Something I’ve been increasingly aware of this past year is how unconscious I’ve become again about how much technology and my digital life have taken over my day.
When we’re not conscious about our digital use, it quickly eats up an incredible amount of our time. Our time is the most significant resource we have. How we spend it ultimately makes the difference between whether we achieve the things we want in life – or not.
Digital minimalism can go some way in helping us to recoup the time we need to uncover the purposeful, value-led lives we all deserve.