Stop Scrolling, Start Living

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

Scrolling down an infinite page of updates passes time but it feels shit. You kill time rather than enjoying your time. This deflates you.

Doing something that takes effort feels better.

It’s easy to just scroll Facebook or Twitter for a bit, but it doesn’t feel good. Despite this, you can end up wasting hours a day doing it.

Big Tech companies spend millions of dollars researching how to make their apps as addictive as possible. Something you barely think about has been fine-tuned to be as manipulative as possible, that’s not a fair fight.

Take Facebook for example, it’s free, yet they make billions of dollars every year. They do this through advertising. Advertisers pay for you to look at their stuff and buy it. To Facebook, more time looking at the screen equals more money. If they can stop you ever looking away from their screens, they make more money. So their goals of making money, don’t align with your goal catching up with friends.

They don’t care if you enjoy the app, they care that you look at it.

Willpower alone will fail. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport has the tools you need.

The 30 Day Digital Declutter

  1. Take a 30 day break from the optional technologies in your life (social media, streaming, gaming etc)
  2. Explore and rediscover activities and behaviours you find satisfying and meaningful (reading, sports, travel)
  3. After the break, reintroduce tech you find valuable and meaningful, slowly.

1. What’s Your Optional Technology

To have a successful declutter, you need a plan. Having a plan will give you a written record to refer to, when things get tough.

Critical Vs Convenient

Write out a list of the technologies you use, defining them as “convenient” or “critical”.

Convenient technology you use to entertain yourself, or for fun and nothing more.

Critical technology includes apps you actually need to live. This could be maps to get around or emails to answer clients.

Exceptions to the Rule

Some convenient tech could be used in specific situations only. You don’t want to be with a group of friends and have to leave the room, because they put a movie on. Socialising could be an exception to a “no Netflix” rule.

Total Bans

Decide which technologies need a total ban. This can and should (in my opinion) include Facebook, Instagram and any other social media that harvests your personal data for profit.

Note: I am on Twitter, more on that later.

Remind Yourself Daily

Write down your rules on a small note and put the note somewhere you will see it everyday. This helpful reminder, could prevent you giving in when the declutter gets tough.

2. The 30-Day Break

The time has come. This is the difficult part, but the most rewarding as well.

30 days, isn’t a hard rule, but 1 month is a clear time and long enough to create a new routine.

Every Journey Starts with a Single Step

The first few weeks are the most difficult, this is when your natural rhythms will urge you to reach for your phone when you’re in a queue or put on Netflix when you have an hour to kill. After these first few weeks, it gets easier and eventually the urges die off.

Rediscover and Explore

The easiest way to fall back into the habit of mindless scrolling and watching is to have nothing to do instead. The beauty of Cal’s ideas, are that you aren’t expected to just power through the process. Instead, you replace the old unsatisfying activities with new, fulfilling ones.

Now is the time to try hobbies you used to enjoy, dust off the that bike and go for a ride, try another model kit you built as a kid or draw something just for fun.

It is also a time to explore new hobbies. You may not know what you would rather do than mindless binge-watches of Netflix shows. Try something new and see if you like it. The key is to look for activities that actively engage you.

Effort is rewarding.

Scrolling and binge-watching are easy, but that’s why they’re so unsatisfying. To actually build something, achieve something or get somewhere, takes more effort and that’s why it feels so much better. You’re going from passively to floating through life, to living life the way you want to.

3. Reintroduce Technology

30 days have passed. You no longer feel the urge to scroll through Instagram, like photos, or catch up on the latest memes.

Now you choose what tech gets to come back, based on if :

  • It serves a deep value, not just some value.
  • It is the best way to serve that value.
  • You can decide how and when to use it.

Deep Value vs Some Value

You decide what matters to you. A deep value, could be YouTube, because you use it to learn new skills. Maybe the YouTube rabbit-holes were your issue, so you could get a plug-in that turns off the recommendation algorithm. Then use YouTube by searching for the lesson you want and leaving. No Browsing. You get the value you want and leave before you get sucked in.

Is the Technology the Best Tool for the Job?

If your goal is to keep in touch with your friends, maybe liking the occasional photo isn’t the best way. You build a much deeper connection by calling someone or having a video call or if you’re able, meeting in person. You will have a much more satisfying experience than just scrolling past their latest pics.

Have Rules for How and When to Use the Tech

You may come back from your 30 day break and realise you did actually get something from the information you get on Twitter. You may follow thought-leaders who post interesting content but don’t have a newsletter.

One way round this is to have a set time to go on Twitter, then you don’t go on anymore than that set time.

Adding friction to the processes can help too. Such as a rule to only use your PC for Twitter. The app is the most addictive version, because Big Tech know people always have their phones on them, so they pour the most additive functions into the app version. The added friction of having to turn on your computer just to go on Twitter may be enough to stop the addictive cue and you can go and do something better. This is strengthened if you log out of Twitter on your browser and delete the app on your phone.

30 days to reset your digital habits.

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Digital Minimalism: An Introduction

Technology isn’t bad, letting it rule our lives is.

Digital minimalism is about using our devices less, so we can live better, more intentional lives. If you’re anything like me, time spent on social media mainly consists of scrolling, liking and sharing. This is distracting and occasionally amusing, but it lacks something. You can feel worse than before you started browsing. How many of your favourite memories have you swiping on a screen?

Digital Minimalism isn’t anti technology, tin hat wearing madness. It’s finding ways to have technology serve you. Digital Minimalism gives you the tools to fight back against the digital Goliaths who make money off your attention, so you can focus on meaningful and satisfying activities instead. Ever heard someone complain they were too satisfied? Me neither, so maybe it’s worth a try.

Why Digital Minimalism?

Minimalism is about getting rid of clutter. You live a simpler, better life.

Minimalism is about optimisation. You make big, effective changes and forget about the small details.

Minimalism is about living your life you choose, not just letting life happen to you.

Apply all that to your devices and you get Digital Minimalism.

What is Digital Minimalism?

The Digital Declutter

You intentionally remove all the virtual messiness from your life for 30 days. That’s a long time. 30 days of no scrolling, no liking and no commenting (online, you can comment in person if you wish). Then you slowly reintroduce technology back to your life.

Once 30 days have passed, you leave your interrogate your digital habits that took so much of your time and decide which ones improve your life. You get rid of the rest.

For me that was Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. Somehow Twitter and Imgur have survived, no one’s perfect.

Optimisation

You’ve decided which apps get to stay and which ones to throw out. Now you must figure out how these apps, websites and widgets will serve you best.

How can you get the most value for the smallest amount of effort? You find the smallest changes that will have the biggest impact on your life.

Once you’ve made the big changes, stop optimising. You will just waste more and more time getting smaller and smaller results, this is the law of diminishing returns.

Satisfaction

Your spare time should always be yours.

The Digital Declutter may result in you having much more spare time than you used to have. To make sure you don’t slip back into old habits and to reap the biggest rewards, you replace that time with high-value activities. These look different for everyone, yours could be football or playing guitar, mine tend me to reading and learning something I’m curious about.

Apps are convenient, but self-direction feels better.

Learn more here:

https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Cal-Newport/Digital-Minimalism–Choosing-a-Focused-Life-in-a-Noisy-World/24893628

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