This is the sixth blog in our Take Time Tuesday series exploring intersectional environmentalism. In each post, we highlight thought leaders paving the way and teaching us how to be better people, both through anti-racist education and environmental justice. Find the first one here. Note: Digital Minimalism, while not anti-racist or environmentally-just in and of itself, when practiced, can be a very helpful framework for "doing the work." Try it.
All of these quotes are things I've either heard or said in the past several months; notably, since COVID-19 has switched much of our work and communication from in-person to digital.
Screens have become an essential way for us to carry on our business, get work done, and stay connected to friends and family in this new "normal" of pandemic protocols.
We crave deep conversation with people, and yet so often find ourselves "sucked in" to our phones.
Instead of providing the connection we need, we end up feeling depleted, stressed, worried, jealous, empty.
Can I hear an amen?
This anxiety sent me searching early this summer for a framework to help me reclaim my sanity and get my screen time under control.
About that time, Cal Newport's book "Digital Minimalism" came across my screen... ironically. With no hesitation, I bought the book. Curious, hopeful, desperate.
I was not disappointed.
In his book, Cal describes the complex nature of face-to-face human interaction (that we find so satisfying), and compares it with the way we feel when interacting on social media. In this quote, he's contrasting an in-person conversation with hitting "like" on someone's post:
to replace this rich flow with a single bit is the ultimate insult to our social processing machinery [aka, our brain]. To say its like driving a Ferrari under the speed limit is an understatement. The better similie is trowing a Ferrari behind a mule.
So what do we do?
Cal suggests a 30-day digital detox.
How is it going?
Well, I'm two weeks in, and it ain't easy ... I still feel the twitch to check my phone almost hourly, I have to hand-write directions when I want to go somewhere new, and I should probably buy a watch.
But it's a relief to feel like I have my brain back.
I'm finding I suddenly have time to plant a fall garden. Plan a kitchen remodel. Spend undistracted time with my kiddo. Clean up, clean out. Declutter!
For the month of August, with very few exceptions, my phone is a phone.
Case in point: here's a screenshot of my phone screen today.
wallpaper by @pattiegonia
For work, I've kept a few apps that I'm "allowed" to use at specific times with specific guidelines:
On "page 2" of my phone, I've stashed all necessary apps I use for work in a single hidden folder.
For example, I use Instagram to promote my business and connect with my customers. During this digital detox month, I've created a guideline around how I use Instagram. First, I assembled a list of 10 accounts I will check, directly on their profile page, to interact with and learn from. I have 15 minutes each day to do any Instagram work I need. It isn't much, but it's enough.
It's focused, intentional, and useful.
In general, how am I feeling two weeks in?
I feel like I have my life back.
I feel like my brain is my own.
I feel the worried pit of anxiety gripping my gut is melting and I can relax.
I'll let you read the book for all of Cal's approachable tips, but here's what you can expect (paraphrased):
- A 30-day period where you give yourself a break from all optional technology in your life.
- Time to explore and rediscover meaningful and satisfying activities and behaviors.
- At the end, the assignment to intentionally reintroduce technologies only as they answers two questions: 1) What value does this serve? 2) How specifically will I use this to maximize its value?
Our world is changing, whether we are ready or not.
Let's choose what gives us life.
Are you up for the adventure?
Have you given thought to the role digital technology plays in your life? Do you feel trapped by it? Is it time to declutter? What steps are you taking? What's working? What isn't?
Drop me a line in the comments below!