I’ve had an unintentional theme over the last month with three books touching on various parts of the relationship that we have with technology, and the ways that technology — particularly smartphones and social media — make our lives worse. Digital Minimalism is the best book of the three, and a welcome respite from the mess that was Survival of the Richest.
The author advocates for readers to reclaim their time and attention from the constant distraction that social media and smart phones offer and then devotes much of the book to sharing practical advice on how to build a healthier relationship with digital technology by paring it back to the pieces that are essential and valuable for your life.
I am fortunate that I never used Facebook or Instagram much, and last year I changed my use of Twitter in a way that eliminated (almost) all mindless scrolling. Despite that, for years I had an unhealthy relationship with my smartphone. Earlier this year, at the same time that I started writing these short book reviews, I became much more intentional about my phone usage and cut my time spent on screens dramatically. I did this partly because I wanted to spend more time on pursuits that brought me joy (scrolling through the news on my phone doesn’t, for some reason), and partly because I knew that I would be starting a full-time job again which meant that I would have far less spare leisure time than I had in 2021. Scaling back my phone usage means I have more time and focus available outside of my working hours to spend on quality time with my wife, reading, writing, hiking, and running. Taking a more focused and thoughtful approach to my leisure time is a necessity now that I am living much of my life on someone else’s schedule again.
Reading this book didn’t add many new ideas for cutting back on technology for me, but that is because I had already taken conscious steps on my own. For folks who want to cut back on their social media and smartphone use and are struggling to start, Newport’s book is a great introduction to both the why of cutting back on technology and how to get started.
This read, along with The Loop and Survival of the Richest have helped some thoughts that had been percolating for a while, and I’m adding more related reading to my list to help those ideas keep churning.