Review: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Posted November 23, 2020 by Angie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

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Review: Digital Minimalism by Cal NewportDigital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Published by Portfolio on Febrary 5, 2019
Genres: Adult Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover (304 pages)
Source: Library
Purchase: AmazonIndieBound
Add Book: GoodreadsBookhype

The key to living well in a high tech world is to spend much less time using technology.

Georgetown computer scientist Cal Newport's Deep Work sparked a movement around the idea that unbroken concentration produces far more value than the electronic busyness that defines the modern work day. But his readers had an urgent follow-up question: What about technology in our personal lives?

In recent years, our culture's relationship with personal technology has transformed from something exciting into something darker. Innovations like smartphones and social media are useful, but many of us are increasingly troubled by how much control these tools seem to exert over our daily experiences--including how we spend our free time and how we feel about ourselves.

In Digital Minimalism, Newport proposes a bold solution: a minimalist approach to technology use in which you radically reduce the time you spend online, focusing on a small set of carefully-selected activities while happily ignoring the rest.

He mounts a vigorous defense for this less-is-more approach, combining historical examples with case studies of modern digital minimalists to argue that this philosophy isn't a rejection of technology, but instead a necessary realignment to ensure that these tools serve us, not the other way around.

To make these principles practical, he takes us inside the growing subculture of digital minimalists who have built rich lives on a foundation of intentional technology use, and details a decluttering process that thousands have already used to simplify their online lives. He also stresses the importance of never clicking "like," explores the underappreciated value of analog hobbies, and draws lessons from the "attention underground"--a resistance movement fighting the tech companies' attempts to turn us into gadget addicts.

Digital Minimalism is an indispensable guide for anyone looking to reclaim their life from the alluring diversions of the digital world.

three-stars

I’ve been on a minimalist journey for past two-ish years, so Digital Minimalism is a book that naturally came onto my radar. I like the idea of digital minimalism, but I don’t think the way that the author presents it here was very convincing. In all honesty, this felt like a long winded blog post about why Facebook is bad and how smartphones have taken over our lives. I don’t disagree with either point, but I think the real message got lost in those sentiments.

I’ll start off by saying that it felt weird to have a man who has never used Facebook (or any social media) tell me to stop using Facebook. He’s clearly not an expert on that subject, but I was still interested in how to apply minimalism to my digital life. I 100% agree that most of us spend too much time on our social media app of choice and that we should be more mindful with our usage. This also applies to other digital media, and I immediately deleted the only three games from my phone, because I realized that I do plan my entire day around using them. That is bad, and I actually didn’t feel deprived the following day or weeks, so this tells me that those games weren’t really adding any value to my life.

Digital Minimalism is very focused on taking our social interactions and leisure activities offline and into the “real” world. Maybe he’s right, but also, what about the people who are unable to–or simply don’t want to–have face to face conversation or participate in activities outside of the home? (Let’s not even get into the fact that I read this during COVID-19 lock-down.) Social media and other online spaces may be the way they connect with other people. It’s unfair to assume that in person interactions are the only way to have meaningful conversation and experiences. This concession is not once mentioned and is a gross oversight.

I did find Digital Minimalism to be an interesting read. I obviously don’t agree with everything, but it did make me think about my own habits when it comes to my smartphone. The only social media site that I’m active on is Instagram and I don’t plan on giving it up, because I do find value and enjoyment in it. However, I am going to be mindful of the amount of time that I spend mindlessly scrolling. I could be using that time for something more engaging, such as reading or learning Japanese.

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