Lyceum — Digital Minimalism

Digital Minimalism A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport tries to serve as a map to safely navigate the attention economy apps that govern our lives in the 21st Century. Cal identifies and breaks down the reasons for our perpetual addiction to gadgets and apps and introduces the theory of Digital Minimalism to combat it using the philosophy above. I did not like the book.

In the first half of the book, he tries to diagnose the problem by pinpointing the root causes for our attachment to modern technologies, how dangerous their design philosophy is, how truly little they care about what kind of impact their products might have on culture and society (comparing it to tobacco at one point) and then explains the idea behind Digital Minimalism. To prove that the idea works Cal quotes the examples and experiences of various people who participated in his 30-day digital detox experiment.

The second half of the book introduces activities that will help you cultivate your digital minimalist lifestyle so that it’s sustainable and you don’t spiral back into the vicious and endless cycle of mindless scrolling.

This is a great read if you are someone who belongs to the target audience of the book, someone who spends hours of their leisure time browsing Instagram, Reddit, Twitter or other social media websites. But assuming you choose to read the book would imply that you recognize and accept that this is a problem and you should do something about it. I have friends who spend hours on social media and boast about it. I myself have spent hours binging on YouTube and Netflix even though I’ve read the book, know and understand that what I’m doing is inherently unproductive and an utter wastage of my time. It’s like preaching to the choir or your parents sitting you doing and giving you the talk.

For me, the book did not do more than expanding on existing beliefs and held truths. Most of what the book preaches I have identified and have actively tried to do in the past but haven’t been successful. It helped me feel worse about the things I’ve done over the last 5 years and nothing else.

I don’t think the book is bad inherently, in fact, it’s a great book if you actually can put into practice what Cal proposes, just not for me.