Digital Minimalism Review

Two months ago to the day, I posted thoughts on social media. It was a general look at my social media use at the time and a point of scaling back from Facebook in particular. My conclusion was apt:

“Minimalism is a good final point on my current thoughts on Social Media. I don’t want to delete altogether but minimize use or exposure, and thereby mitigate any negative effects. I hope the net results will be positive!”

I also shared that I had pre-ordered Cal Newport’s new book Digital Minimalism. It finally came out a few days ago and appeared on my kindle immediately!

So far, Cal’s new book is great! I’m about half-way through reading it; here are some of my thoughts.

This is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Newport. I’m kinda jealous because, man, he can write well! His ability to clearly present arguments and definitions of concepts with real-world examples is noteworthy. The writing is concise, and the logical flow from one thought to the next is silky smooth. Regardless of the content, the reading is a pleasure.

But of course, I love the content! My expectation leading up to the book’s release was that Cal’s Digital Declutter (not so much detox) was going to be too challenging for me personally, like when I was young and had to eat my broccoli. Good, but hard, to do.

Does decluttering mean I will have to give up my smartphone? No, not necessarily. In fact, Cal presents surprising findings from a close look at the Amish and Mennonite cultures known, inaccurately, for eschewing technology altogether.

Yet I’m finding, through Cal’s simple and compelling reasoning, backed by much research, studies, life-examples, and works by others, that the Digital Declutter is so necessary and valuable that I’d be somewhat of a fool to not jump in headlong with conviction of a good outcome. Like I can’t wait to benefit from it! It’s better than broccoli smothered in cheddar cheese!

I’m carefully considering the weight of Cal’s words and his own life as a testimony to living a better life more in control of technology than being controlled by tech.

Our smartphones, for example, promised to give us new capabilities, to enable us. Instead, they enslave us, exploiting our vulnerabilities.

Digital Minimalism begins by defining what it is and why it’s important. I was generally convinced of this matter beforehand, but after reading Cal’s first few chapters, my understanding is better and, if locked-in before, the key has now been tossed into the abyss.

The book’s outset also explains the value and method of the Digital Declutter. While I’ve not yet embarked on this 30-day task, I have already begun to pare down my phone’s apps plus online services I use.

Some of the most valuable stuff I’ve gained so far is the in-depth promotion of solitude, walking, and other practical ways to declutter from device domination.

I also appreciated that Cal expounded on a distinction between connection and conversation and applied it to what he terms conversation-centric communication. Basically, the argument is well made that real-life face-to-face socializing can never be replaced by social media and digital “likes.”

The reason this is worth reading is because, even though many people would agree that the argument’s conclusion is common sense, Cal reasons how and why and shows that our common sense can be undermined by the technology and our own psychological weaknesses.

For now, I’ll end with a quote that I loved enough to, ironically, share on Twitter (needing to turn on my kindle’s wi-fi to do so):

“…humans are not wired to be constantly wired.” - Cal Newport – Digital Minimalism

I’m still soaking up this good read, but I’ll go ahead and highly recommend you buy it for yourself!