Digital Minimalism – How to Simplify Your Online Life

Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.


As defined by bloggers, Josh Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

Minimalism is a thing. I’d be really surprised if you’ve never heard of the word or thought about decluttering the house. The core idea of minimalism is not necessarily owning less. It’s about having less things that don’t matter in your life and having more of what truly does. Owning and wanting less will help keep you from getting distracted from relationships, hobbies, and aspirations. It will also help you gain clarity on what you really value and want to focus on in your life but, it’s not for everyone.

Personally, I love doing it and find so much joy from it. Sounds weird, but it’s true.

If you’re not in the minimizing mindset or are truly happy with everything you may find this post not as interesting. I would still love your input and advice on digital minimalism though.

Digital Minimalism Defined

You know what else is a thing? Digital Minimalism (aka digital detox, digital declutter, digital downsizing, digital disposal, dejunking your digital life, etc.).

You can’t read about Digital Minimalism without coming across the name Cal Newport. He is the author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.

Cal Newport

It’s not just the physical stuff that distracts us from living our best lives, its the digital madness that we partake in. The digital minimalist movement is increasingly becoming a normalized term as technology and the internet become an ever consuming part of our lives.

Ours eyes have become so fixated on screens – whether it be a computer, tv, smart phone, smart watch, or tablet that we have become so out detached from reality. Maybe it’s just me that thinks this but you have to admit that our lives are becoming tech-centric. Digital Minimalism isn’t about rejecting and eliminating technology and all of its benefits it has to offer. It has more to do with being intentional with our technological use.

Not going to lie, as I am writing this, I’ve been looking at Instagram randomly and have the Netflix documentary: Minimalism, A Documentary on the Important Things on in the background. Total distraction. By the way, this documentary is pretty amazing and very eye opening.

Here’s a realization that just popped into my head: we often judge video gamers for always, well, gaming. Yet, it’s rare for someone to be called out on their cell phone usage. Who am I to judge gamers when I’m in front of a screen for probably just as long?

Fundamentals of Digital Minimalism

The meaning of digital minimalism can be different for people just as the term minimalism has a different meaning for people.

Check out my post on the different types of minimalists here.

1. Intention vs. Routine

Personal Technology is addictive and compulsive. It is easily available and although not cheap in some places, we still fork over cash to have it. If we are paying for something, we should use it to the max, right? NO! Thinking this way makes it easier for technology to interfere with what we truly want.

How do we get away from this mindlessness? We need to be intentional with our technology, not habitual. Basically, optimize technology for what we want to keep us in line with our values. Digital minimalism is a way to clearly define what technologies you let into your life and how you use them.

2. Technology Shouldn’t Be About Feeling Better

You have to admit that technology is a way to bring short term happiness which is why we constantly have some piece of techno on us. Do you ever find yourself reaching for your phone or tablet when you’re bored, anxious or sad? This is probably because we get immediate relief from whatever uncomfortable feeling we have by mindlessly looking at photos or streaming a video or instantly messaging someone.

Technology becomes a way of escaping reality…escaping what we fear. Instead of actually running away, or even addressing our problems, it is so much easier to grab our phone and go down a rabbit hole.

Relying on technology to make us feel better is sort of like shopping, if you must. We purchase something that makes us happy for the moment but it doesn’t last long – we are always looking for the next best thing. Using technology for cheap emotional short term relief can apparently lead to long lasting consistent suffering.

Research and studies have found that after the initial feeling of gratification there are physical and mental impacts such as: anxiety, stress, narcissism, depression and loneliness, attention deficit disorder, and sleep deprivation.

3. People First

Putting people before tech can be difficult but it is probably one of the most important ideas of digital minimalism.

With all of the different ways we can connect with people on the internet, you would think it was the best invention ever…for the most part it is. Sadly, there is a point where technology makes us feel more disconnected and isolated.

Instead having meaningful conversations, most people end up having one worded text messages and or ‘liking’ a photo; instead of giving your full attention to your partner; you’re in separate room scrolling through fb and creeping on other people and judging their rants; and instead of going out with friends, you end up staying home watching Netflix all night long because you’re feeling ‘lazy’.

I admit, I am definitely a culprit of all of these instances.

Cell Phone Addiction Statistics (as of 2019)

Nomophobia – the irrational fear of being without your phone, or not being able to use your phone (eg. low battery/no coverage/forgot at home); a ‘nomobile-phone phobia‘.

Phone dependence is no joke. But, the sudden personal independence of having a phone seems normal considering what the device is used for: internet, networks, video, music, apps, etc.

  • 47- the average number of times a smartphone user checks their phone/day
  • 2:16 hrs – average time spent each day on social platforms
  • 2,617 – number of taps/swipes/clicks
  • 86% users check their device while speaking with friends and family
  • 69% users check their phone within 5 minutes of waking up in the morning
  • 47% – percent of parents that think their child is addicted to their smartphone
  • 6.42 hrs – average time spent online

For more statistics, check out Bankmycell and WeAreSocial. Check your screen time by going to your settings on your phone. You may surprise yourself.

Check out the podcast, Making Sense by Sam Harris, Episode #71 – What is technology doing to us.

Warning Signs That You May Need a Digital Detox

  • It’s difficult for you to concentrate on finishing a task or work.
  • You use your phone during conversation or seclude yourself from family and friends.
  • When you don’t have your phone on you, you get FOMO
  • You feel anxious or irritable when you don’t have your phone on you
  • You sleep with your phone.
  • During meals, your phone is on the table, front and centre.

Ways to Reduce Digital Clutter

If you’re considering to curb your cell phone addiction or just decrease your digital use, start to recognize your habits and work on slowly reducing your time to managable amounts.

  1. Turn off notification, badges and sounds to help minimize interruptions. Turn the sound off while you’re sleeping as well.
  2. Have a no phone/tablet in the bedroom rule. If you use your phone as an alarm ( I do), place it across the room. This will help you get up quicker and avoid the snooze button.
  3. Unsubscribe to as many emails and newsletters as possible. You’ll spend less time sorting through your inbox and be less tempted to purchase things online with all the sales and promotions. Imagine the money you’ll save.
  4. No phones at the dinner table. Keep your phone in your purse or pocket or out of reach when having a meal. Unless you’re waiting for an urgent call, give your undivided attention to your friends/family.
  5. Delete apps you’re not using. Sorting through your phone to find the app you want is like sorting through your junk drawer.
  6. Trash outdated information on your desktop/laptop. Do you have ancient files, old photos or even old outdated resumes? Trash ’em and keep those that matter. Organizing and getting rid of clutter in your computer is just as therapeutic as getting rid of clothes in your closet.
  7. Take a social sabbatical. Some suggest taking a 30 day hiatus from certain online activities. This seems pretty bold. I would suggest 24 hrs first, then a week, then two, then 30 days. In the meantime, rediscover old hobbies or try new ones and try to gain clarity on your values. At the end, figure out with you can do away with.
  8. Unfollow people you no longer associate with or have no connection to. The more accounts you follow, the busier your feed gets and the more time is spent scrolling.
  9. Cancel your cable and reclaim leisure. Pick up a book, go for a walk, or call a friend. Break free from the FOMO of digital technology.
  10. Limit your app use or schedule time outs.

Less is More

Rather than feeling overwhelmed with all the different apps, file folders, social media options,etc., having less empowers you and you become more productive as you begin to understand your true values in life.

If you feel like you need to decompress and simplify your digital life, try out a few of the techniques I listed. In place, find some offline activities to replace any idle online time. You could also try something along the lines of Pavlovian conditioning. Each time you reach for your phone or tablet to browse aimlessly, do 10 jumping jacks instead.

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NomadGirlfriend

Hey there, I'm Cristine (aka Nomadgirlfriend). I want to quit my job so I can travel more. I just need to figure out the digital world so I can start making money to feed my wanderlust with my digital nomad partner. I welcome you to join my on this journey of self discovery and new adventures!

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