I have imagined this quite often, but never took it further than disabling notifications or deleting apps from my phone. But after reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport I got excited and choose the month of June for my digital declutter.
If you haven't read the book, which you should do, I'll shortly explain why you potentially will benefit from questioning your digital habits.
Since the personal computer became popular a shared understanding of technology was engraved into our mind: If it's digital and straight out of Silicon Valley, it must be good. As Cal Newport calls it, a gift from the nerd gods.
The books cite many studies and even that I don't fall into the generation 1995 and upwards, I have grown up with quite some tools that soon became normal. For the longest time I didn't use anything like WhatsApp or Instagram. But eventually, I also signed up for them. They made their way for my attention and promoted bad habits or better said, addictions, in my life.
With movies like Silicon Valley and other stories, it always sounds like they are trying to improve our life. And I am confident that there are some noble ideas to make the world a better place, but in the end it is capitalism, nothing is free.
We, or better said our attention has become the product. The more we look at our phones, the more money companies like Facebook and Google earn. It's clear that every development effort therefore targets our eyeballs.
It's mostly not a romantic story of nerds in a garage anymore that are working on their dream. It's psychologists, it's analysts, it's huge amounts of data that dictate exactly how this new feature should look and how it keeps your eyes at the screen longer and your thumb pulling to refresh more often.
All of this has an impact, an impact on our attention, an impact on our time, finally, an impact on our mind. And I suspect not a good one.
This may sound drastic, but I want my life back. I want to go back to being bored, to not being reachable all the time, not letting my emotions being controlled by algorithms that are doing their job way to well to trigger me.
Even that I count myself as conscious about this, I also count myself as vulnerable to these tactics. That's why there is nothing as a cold hard reset.
First I listed all optional apps, services, and tools which I will take a break from. This includes any social network, but also "business networks", like LinkedIn.
On these apps I either disabled my accounts or I changed the password and somehow locked myself out.
Still, there are some apps that I rely on, like emails. For them, I have defined operations procedures like the following:
Email: Once a day at 5 PM with a timer set to 10 minutes
Additionally, to not wrestle with my willpower too much I am using freedom.to to just block all these kinds of apps and services.
There will be time
All these "just-checks" and minutes of scrolling are adding up each. When you are suddenly not doing this anymore, better be prepared. Even that I am not considering myself a heavy user, I will get back some time I want to spend well.
Therefore, I also created a list of activities for the 30 days. Since it's a digital declutter I also decided to journal on paper for this timeframe, which also should improve my cruel handwriting. Plus, I will re-read Management 3.0. If that is not enough, well, I have prepared a backlog of books that want to be read and enough articles that want to be written.
This is not a detox
Finally, I should mention: This is not a detox. I am not going to just enable everything like it was before.
After this experiment I will maybe introduce some services again, but then with a strict procedure to make the most value of it. Others may be deleted forever.
More on that in 30 days. 😉