The philosophy of Digital Minimalism is guided by the idea that we should be in total control over our media consumption. It states that less can be more in relation to digital tools; which helps us to focus in the increasingly noisy world of technology. At the moment I’m the complete opposite of a Digital Minimalist; I use digital media the first thing in the morning, the last thing in the evening and way too much in between. The goal of this journey is to drastically reduce my usage of these technologies, which enables me to focus on a smaller number of activities that I actually value.
The current situation
I’m addicted to Digital Media. I use my phone for five hours a day on average. This time consists of aimless scrolling on social platforms like Instagram or YouTube and being in constant contact with my friends via WhatsApp. A lot of this behavior happens subconsciously; the content I consume often doesn’t interest me at all. One moment I’m watching a YouTube video to solve a software problem, the next thing you know I’ve spent 30 minutes watching videos YouTube recommended me.
This phenomenon isn’t abnormal or exceptional. The digital media platforms we use are billion-dollar companies who invest copious amounts of resources on making their platforms as addictive as possible. Incredibly intelligent and talented engineers are working every day to make us spend as much time possible on their platforms, as this increases their ad revenue. We aren’t the users of platforms like Instagram, YouTube or Facebook. We’re the product.
Personally, I feel that this affects my daily life: I’m not living an intentional life anymore. I can subconsciously waste half an hour on Facebook while I could’ve spent that time doing something that I actually value and gives me a sense of fulfillment. I’m aware of this, but my mind still chooses for the quick impulses of platforms like Facebook or Instagram. This has to change.
My plan of action
In the past few months, I’ve attempted to drastically reduce my screen time twice. During the first attempt, I tracked my usage, deleted apps, and stopped using certain platforms. In the second attempt, I cut out the usage of the internet completely after work (6 pm) for two weeks. After both attempts, I was back to my normal behavior within a few weeks.
This time I’m not going to limit myself to certain times or try to reduce the usage of certain platforms. The addictiveness of their design is too strong to take half measures, I’m going to delete these platforms from my life as much as I possibly can.
Defining the wrongdoers
The first step is defining the digital media that affect my life in a negative way. After a quick analysis, I concluded that the following six media platforms are the wrongdoers in my life: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit, and WhatsApp. I made sure to distinguish the good from the bad. For example, I do use applications like Google Maps (navigation) and Spotify (podcasts & music) a lot, but I don’t feel like they have a negative impact on my daily life. So they aren’t on the list.
The first problem I encountered is that even the “bad” technology benefit me in certain ways. As a Freelance Graphic Designer LinkedIn helps me in my professional life, WhatsApp helps me to stay in contact with friends and family, and Instagram lets me stay up to date with the latest trends.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t cut them out of my life. Like I said before, there’s is no room for half measures. For example, Reddit brings me interesting content, but can’t I obtain this content in a more effective and less addictive way? That’s why I wrote down what I really need these platforms for:
- Instagram: work
- Facebook: work
- LinkedIn: work
- YouTube: n/a
- Reddit: n/a
- WhatsApp: keep in contact with friends & family
Cutting them out of my life
Unfortunately, I can’t delete my Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn profile as I need them for work (posting social media updates for clients). This doesn’t mean that I can’t cut them out of my personal life. For example, WhatsApp will stay in my life, but I’m going to drastically reduce my screen time on the platform. Below I describe which measures I took per app.
- Facebook (only work-related usage)
Deleted my Facebook. Created an empty Facebook account to manage my business pages.
- LinkedIn (only work-related usage)
Deleted the app. Put a password on the website to make sure I won’t use it subconsciously.
- Instagram (only work-related usage)
Deleted the app from my home screen. Logged out of my personal account. Put a password on the app & website to make sure I won’t use it subconsciously. I did not delete my account as I would like people to find my account and read why I’m not on this platform anymore in my last post.
- YouTube (only allowed to use when having a clear purpose in mind)
As YouTube can still be very useful for watching tutorials or documentaries, I put a password on the application and website to make sure I won’t use it subconsciously.
- Reddit (no usage)
Deleted the app, blocked the website.
- WhatsApp (limited use)
As I still need WhatsApp for social purposes, I put time limitations on WhatsApp. This means I can use WhatsApp after breakfast for about 15 minutes to keep track of my social contacts, but not on desktop. This the same during my lunch break and the evening. I will still have to use it in-between if I’ve to plan things with friends. WhatsApp will be the hardest one as I can’t cut it out completely. It will probably need some tweaking in the next few weeks.
To make sure I wouldn’t enter these platforms subconsciously I blocked them using a Google Chrome add-on and app called Blocksite. This program asks me for a password every time I want to log into one of these (mobile)websites or apps. I used a very guilting and inconveniently long password like “Douweareyousureyouwanttousethis”?
Lastly, I also added a new rule to limit my overall smartphone usage. At the moment my phone is always within reach; it’s either in my pocket or on my desk. From now on I will keep my phone out of my direct reach so I can’t subconsciously use it.
Introducing new technologies into my life
At this point, I’ve cut out multiple habits and sources of information from my life. But I still want to be updated on things that I actually value; like Graphic Design or the latest releases of my favorite artists. In my next writeup, I will focus on (re)introducing technologies in my life that support these values in an effective way. This means technologies without an addictive nature, being purely there to let me consume information that I value as effectively as possible.
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