Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Published by Penguin Audio on February 5, 2019
Source: Purchased
Genres: Self-help
Length: 6 hrs 59 mins
Format: Audiobook
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three-half-stars

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.

Digital minimalists are all around us. They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.

Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement, and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals like observing a digital sabbath, don’t go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.

Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a thirty-day “digital declutter” process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control.

Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. The key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. This book shows the way.

The blurb gives a clear idea of what Digital Minimalism is all about. We’ve become addicted to social media/binge-watching/videogames. And our ever present smartphones are just increasing our dependence. Newport advocates stepping away from all social media for 30 days and then only add things that truly enhance your life, and even those need to be added cautiously and perhaps with rules attached.

He makes some really great points although not revolutionary. I actually like the parts about what to do instead of endlessly scrolling and liking most. I already know I need to spend less time on my phone, but I like the suggestions he has. He stresses the importance of solitude. He wants us to learn new skills and make/fix things. We need to actually interact with people, preferably in person, but an actual phone conversation, not texting, is good too.

I listened to this, ironically enough, via the Audible App on my phone. I think I need to pick up a physical copy so I can mark it up and refer back to it occasionally. It definitely made me think about how I use both my phone and social media.

About Cal Newport

Cal Newport

Cal Newport is a computer science professor at Georgetown University who studies the theory of distributed systems. In addition to his academic work, he writes about the intersection of technology and culture.
Newport is the author of six books, including, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. His work has been published in over 20 languages and has been featured in many major publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, Washington Post, and Economist.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

12 Comments

  1. I was with you up until this: “We need to actually interact with people, preferably in person, but an actual phone conversation”

    Nope nope nope. Please don’t make me.

    Just kidding. KInd of.

    With my friends, of course. Always.

    The friend I spend the most time with doesn’t even own a smart phone and doesn’t have any social media accounts, so when we’re out and about I use my phone ONLY to snap some pictures or use maps or Yelp or Waze or something USEFUL for us both.

    We have a lot of great conversations because no one is ever checking their phone. Well…I might take a quick peek at Twitter while she’s in the ladies room but that’s ok, right? LOL

      • I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: phone vs. text vs. in person. Sometimes, for myself, I feel like things get lost in translation in text or come across as a clipped response when it isn’t meant that way, but because of the nature of texting, it is short. Phone is a bit better but also easy to be distracted and think of all the other things we have to do. Face to face, you at least have to (try to anyway) focus on each other. I think it goes back to digital devices and how much we have let them control our lives, sadly – myself included.

        • In texts you just don’t get the emotion’s behind the phrases – they’re rarely even full sentences. Now, my daughter who is in college and I text a lot, but neither of us are phone people and we know each other well enough to realize that if something sounds short or mean it was unintended. i have another friend whose texts always seem odd, but I don’t know her as well.

    • Yeah – and I really need to do some evaluating. Could I live without Facebook and Instagram and twitter for a month to see how it goes. Yes – but what if no one noticed I was missing? I’d be sad.

  2. I think I put Digital Minimalism on hold on ebook at the Free Library of Philadelphia based on your mentioning it and now that I see your review, I’ll keep it there. The wait is about two, maybe three months, but it sounds like it will be worth the wait. Since giving up Facebook last month, my wife and I are trying to be more conscientous about our digital time.

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