My phone currently houses 336 photos. It doesn’t feel like a ton, until I remember we used to take rolls of film with just 24 exposures each. How did we even do that?
Now I can whip my phone out of my pocket and record every single moment of my kids’ lives, and I don’t even have to wait for the photos to be developed. Of course, then I have to delete the outtakes and organize the rest. I have to label them and store them and back them up so I don’t lose them.
Sometimes I wonder if digitizing has really made things simpler. I wonder if I’m living my life as it happens, or if I’m watching my life through a screen on my phone. Honestly, living in a digital world is pretty amazing.
We have an outrageous amount of access to information and entertainment—available at our fingertips all the time. This is, honestly, all kinds of awesome.
What is Digital Minimalism?
Digital minimalism is a mindset of questioning which digital communication tools are necessary for your happiness. Whether it be email, social media, or general internet consumption, the purpose of this philosophy is to question whether or not they add value to your life.
The trouble with all those digital options, though, is that they just don’t stop. There’s an app for that—and another one for that other thing. If there isn’t an app, there’s probably a whole dedicated device. And you can share it all on social media. All that digital input is constant and never-ending.
Before long it starts to seem like the humming stream of updates and posts and photos is whispering that you’re falling behind, you don’t compare, you can’t keep up.
It’s the creation of discontent, and we invite it right into our lives each day.
Our devices are overrun with apps and files, and our home screens and desktops are a mess. The notifications and possibilities and clickable headlines create so much virtual noise that it’s hard to hear yourself think.
What happens to your body when you’re immersed in that stream too long? Your blood pressure rises. Your creativity falls. Anxiety sets in. Contentment slips away.
We need to be intentional about how we craft our digital lives. We need less mindless consumption and more mindful choices. We need to focus on the aspects of our online presence that serve our whole lives, and let go of other distractions.
This is Digital Minimalism, and we are ready for it. Here are four steps to help you forge a new path when digital overwhelm threatens.
1. Be intentional about your digital life.
Does the way you spend your time and energy online reflect your values? Are you able to focus during your best creative hours, or are they slipping away to social media and email? Are your in-person conversations derailed by pinging devices?
Decide when you’re willing to be plugged in, when you’re not, and stick to it. Just because your online life is always available doesn’t mean it has to take priority.
2. Create an in-person balance to your online activities.
Don’t let your whole life happen online; make things happen around you, too. Yes, chat over Twitter, but also invite people over for dinner conversation.
Admire photos on Pinterest, but also make the space around you reflect the life you want to live. “Like” your buddy’s vacation pictures, then get outside and take a walk in your own neighborhood. You might like that, too.
3. Find a full-stop rhythm that works for you.
Everyone needs time to completely unplug. You decide how much and how often. An annual media fast? A no-weekends policy?
Even setting aside an evening a week to go digital-free can help restore perspective and give your creative soul room to breathe. Everyone needs space for stillness.
4. Make time for a digital declutter.
Get rid of tools, routines, accounts, apps, and services that don’t work for you. They might be easy to download, but if they’re not helping you, delete them. You’ll feel lighter and more free without them.
Healthy boundaries let you enjoy the benefits of digital connection without surrendering your whole life to a constant stream of insignificant activity. We need less digital default, and more intentional interaction. We need digital minimalism.
No Sidebar: At Work
The internet is always on, so your business should be too, right? Checking email at all hours, responding to messages as soon as they come in: that’s what your clients (or customers, or readers) expect, isn’t it?
Meeting those expectations could actually be hurting your business. This one uncommon practice might be just what you need to supercharge your productivity, your creativity, your energy, and your excitement for the projects you’re working on.
No Sidebar: At Home
If you’re constantly trying to play catch-up between work and family and all the little things that keep a household running, you’re not alone.
There’s only so much time every day, and so many distractions calling out for your attention. Focusing on the most meaningful things in your life doesn’t always come naturally; it takes intention and practice.
No Sidebar: In the Soul
Scrolling through your social media feeds can feel like a battle between your best and worst impulses. In one corner, you have connection; in the other, comparison. Connection is good for the soul, but comparison will eat you alive.
You’re keeping up with the lives of more friends and relatives than ever before, but are the side effects getting to be too much?