Own your ditigal minimalism
A couple of weeks ago I attended a panel discussion on Digital Minimalism. Of course, the topic sounded very intriguing as it is very common nowadays to reflect on how we spent too many hours per day in front of our laptop or how we'd like to reduce the time we're glued to a smartphone.
The talk was quite disappointing, a little infuriating even, therefore an excellent opportunity to kick-start an exciting conversation with friends and colleagues.
The conclusion that evening, similar to other articles or discussions regarding this topic, seemed to equate the current rapid digitalization to something terrifying, maybe even dangerous. Smartphones have become vital in our modern life, social media omnipresent, and AI unstoppable. This seemingly grim outlook on our future causes people to attempt to resist this unstoppable technical progress but mostly, to feel confused and overwhelmed. On the one hand, gadgets and software appear to be helpful, while, on the other hand, it doesn't seem advisable to trust them too much. Change is scary, digitalization even more so. It appears to be a wild, wild west, where we don't know what Facebook is doing with our data (well, we did actually get a glimpse of that recently) and which jobs might soon be taken over by robots. So, naturally, people crave security. And the easiest way to induce this, transient, sense of security is through rules and regulations. The premise often seems to follow a familiar pattern. If there were a law preventing us from answering emails after a certain hour, we would be able to better relax in the evening. If social media were to be monitored, people would not become depressed due to cyberbullying or lack of personal interactions. If we could explain precisely how much screen-time is too much, we could save our children from permanent damage to their mental health. Digitalization needs structures and rules; society should intervene to establish these and hold responsible those that break them.
Here's a thought – while these structures are work in progress and undoubtedly inevitable, but not fully formed yet, instead of hiding under our covers and fearing the evil that is brought onto us by continuous technological innovation, why don't we start taking things into our own hands? What if, instead of running away from digitalization, we would fully embrace it, learn how to handle it so that it can better cater to our needs?
It might be necessary for your career to be on all social media channels. It is not? Then quit them, if it's not bringing you joy. Remote or flexible work doesn't mean you have to be available 24/7. Create your schedule, communicate it and stick to it. Is it hard to hold a conversation with your smartphone vibrating with unnecessary notifications every few minutes? Have a look at your app settings. I have mine turned off entirely and stick to the batch answering principle. If there are too many emails in your account, I guarantee you, a purge of newsletters by clicking "unsubscribe" will help to free up your inbox.
There are so many excellent people writing about these topics (see my favorite book on this topic " Deep Work" by Cal Newport), and, nowadays, you have the privilege of educating yourself and making your own rules. True, it requires a little bit of soul searching and reflecting on your own FOMO. If you can't use the bathroom without bringing your iPhone, it's probably not Apple's fault. Take a step back and ask why that is. But above all, let's not, solely, rely on companies, regulations, and politics to solve our problems. We are the consumers, and the power lies in our hands. Things are only offered to us, but it's up to us how we use them.
Establishing a set of personal principles that guide our interaction with technology in the online world might be the first step in the right direction.
What principle have you implemented that was successful for you? Let me know in the comments below.