The way I figure it, Ray LaMontagne was dropped on his head sometime last year and woke up days later, thinking it was 1971, he was Pink Floyd, and he had to go into the studio right now and make an album.
I read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport over the weekend, and it exceeded my expectations. I was a little worried it would just be a re-hashing of his previous book Deep Work, through a slightly different lens, but it’s not that at all. Cal brings in lots of psychology, and provides practical (and pragmatic) recommendations for cultivating a better relationship with technology.
He also draws heavily from the experience of about 1,600 people who undertook a 30-day “technology declutter” during the research phase for the book. Cal uses their stories to share what worked for them, what didn’t work, and ways to address some of the most common pitfalls of trying to become a digital minimalist.
I won’t lie, this book is scary. It’s making me rethink every single online service I use, and I realize that I’m going to give up a lot of it. But I also somehow feel lighter and freer, having come to those conclusions.
Cal isn’t dogmatic in his approach in this book. He lays out the evidence for why the intermittent positive reinforcement and drive for social approval that are built into social media is detrimental to our mental health and relationships. He gives practical advice on how to choose and use the tools that will provide benefit to you. But then he also tells you to use the principles behind what he’s saying, but do what works for you. I really appreciate that.
Below are some of the quotes that I wanted to remember.
Like botanical pinball machines, you could design, plant, and grow entire forests based on their ability to reflect future WiFi signals in very specific ways, artificial landscapes destined to perform computational tasks.
The bad news is that when it comes to your digital profile, the data you choose to share is just the tip of an iceberg. We do not see the rest that is hidden under the water of the friendly interfaces of mobile apps and online services. The most valuable data about us is inferred beyond our control and without our consent. It’s these deeper layers we can’t control that really make the decisions, not us.