According to a study conducted by Mobile technology consultant Toni Ahonen, an average smartphone user checks their phone 150 times a day. People are increasingly becoming dependant on their phones checking it once every six-and-a-half minutes. It is also the first thing people see after waking up because of the alarm clock and also the last thing they see before going to bed.
Even people who have less-sophisticated devices check their phones frequently. Studies further found out that people make, receive or avoid 22 phone calls every day. They also send or receive text messages 23 times a day, Ahonen said, and check the clock 18 times.
While these numbers might sound alarming to you, chances are, you are also a part of this larger majority. Setting the alarms, changing songs, scrolling through your social media, looking at your gallery, playing games, watching movies, plugging and unplugging phones etc. all these factors contribute to increased mobile usage.
5 Ways Your Cell Phone Harms Your Health
Before getting into the whole idea of digital minimalism, I’d like to focus your attention on the adverse effects of excessive mobile usage. Overusing your mobile phones or other electronic devices can result in a number of physical problems that can cause permanent damage or manifest into something which can be difficult to treat.
SHORTENED ATTENTION SPAN
Digital multitasking may seem effective to you but it is making us less focussed in the long run. A study conducted by Microsoft showed that the average attention span of participants was only eight seconds.
COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME
Staring at your mobile or computer screens with all its tiny fonts, tiny pictures and dozens of letters is doing you more harm than you think. It is the leading cause for many vision problems like- eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, dizziness, sore neck, and shoulders. All these problems lead to increased cases of migraines which can give you so much discomfort
WORSENS YOUR POSTURE
According to a study of adults in the U.K., 84% of back pain problems were caused mainly due to staying hunched over tablets, smartphones, laptops, and other devices.
“iPosture” and “TextNeck are two common phrases used by doctors worldwide to describe the excessive slouching and neck pain caused by mobile phone usage.
Nomophobia is a proposed name for the fear of missing out cellular phone contact and having a low battery percentage on mobile phones. Shortened from “no mobile phone phobia” is the fear of not having your mobile phones with you and sometimes it’s so persistent that it affects the daily lives of individuals. Some of its symptoms include- heightened anxiety or negative physical symptoms when you are not using your phone.
Plugging the earphones in your ears and jamming to your favorite beats might seem like a good idea, but not in a longer run. If you are obsessed with listening to music and have your earphones plugged into your ears almost every passing minute, it can damage your hearing. Whenever possible, try to resist this urge as studies have shown that smartphones, cell phones, and earbuds are leading to increased cases of hearing loss.
What Exactly Is Digital Minimalism?
Just like minimalism, digital minimalism is the application of the general minimalist philosophy in the role of technology in our lives. This particular version of minimalism has been quickly gaining prominence around the world as our lives are becoming more tech-centric. Don’t worry, it is not about the prohibition on the use of technology but being intentional with its usage.
As Cal Newport writes,
“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
In other words, digital minimalism is about the art of knowledge of how much is just enough and applying it to our personal technology. Technology is not so bad either, it is all about how you choose to use it. Are you using it to support your goals and values? Or are you rather letting it use you?
Digital minimalism embraces the idea of being intentional and informed with your use of technology. It’s about cleansing your digital life to use what you need in the most efficient manner. It is all about questioning whether a particular piece of technology- your social media handles, emails, the innumerable games, countless pictures in your gallery, or the act of internet browsing- is it adding more value to your life? Or is it removing an essential part of it?
Why Should You Become A Digital Minimalist?
Becoming a digital minimalist doesn’t mean going off the technology grid but clearing the noise generated by devices, apps, feeds and the notification ping which can overwhelm us. It is about refining your digital footprint down to only a few important tools that serve a purpose.
The core idea behind any form of minimalism is that nothing is more valuable than your experiences, memories, and moments you share with your loved ones or even with yourselves, for that matter.
Becoming a digital minimalist will encourage us to cut down the excess or the clutter in our lives which in turn, increases the time and attention we can put in doing things which truly matter.
For instance, instead of aimlessly scrolling through your Instagram account which eventually tires your eyes and makes you cranky; you can rather spend that precious time by learning something you have been putting off for a while. Or you can spend that time with your family members, by being present in the moment.
A digital minimalist experiences a whole shift of mind from being absentminded to developing mindfulness.
Do you take your phone with you everywhere you go as if it is an inseparable part of you? Do you find yourself scrolling through social media, checking your messages, or fidgeting between different apps without you even realizing you’re doing it?
Does your phone distract you from doing things? If the answer is yes, you need to make an urgent change and reconnect with yourself and what (and who) you love. Being a digital minimalist will give you this opportunity by decluttering all the unimportant stuff from your life.
3 Principles Of Digital Minimalism
Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and author of the book ‘Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.’ He collates data from a wide range of case studies considering the behavior of people from different fields and introduces the three principles of digital minimalism
PRINCIPLE 1: CLUTTER IS COSTLY
“Digital minimalists recognize that cluttering their time and attention with too many devices, apps, and services creates an overall negative cost that can swamp the small benefits that each individual item provides in isolation”Newport
If you are a digital minimalist your phone is used for a purpose. It is not checked unless you intend to respond or take an important action. It doesn’t distract you from important tasks but rather helps you fulfill them. Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what adds value to their lives and eliminate the clutter.
PRINCIPLE 2: Optimisation is important
“Digital minimalists believe that deciding a particular technology supports something they value is only the first step,” he explains. “To truly extract its full potential benefit, it’s necessary to think carefully about how they’ll use the technology.”
A digital minimalist has limited their devices down to the essential few. They focus their online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities which strongly support the things you value and things that help you accomplish your goals.
PRINCIPLE 3: Intentionality is satisfying
“Digital minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies,” Newport says, adding that this “is independent of the specific decisions they make and is one of the biggest reasons that minimalism tends to be immensely meaningful to its practitioners.”
By making an intentional choice towards your digital usage and clearing all the unnecessary, you are making room for other more important aspects of life- passion, health, human relationships, growth, and contribution. By being mindful of how much we let into our lives, we focus more on filling our lives with things that matter to us.
Few Steps In The Direction Of Digital Minimalism
The first and foremost step will be the removal of apps that you don’t use anymore. And, for those apps which you use less frequently, uninstall them too and try sticking to the browser version. Delete similar kinds of apps because why do you need 10 different types of editing apps for your pictures when you can easily edit it using one?
REMOVE SOCIAL MEDIA
This will the most difficult step you have to take but trust me, you will get through it. While social media is not necessarily a bad thing but if you’re using it obsessively, it is a bad habit. If you do not want to get directly into it, start by unfollowing and unfriending those people and pages which do not add value to your life. Restrict all the distractions from people you are not close too and keep only the ones you love.
TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS
By this, I do not mean turning off the important notifications but the ones you’re not going to check anyway. Notifications are the biggest distractions and carry us away from other important tasks. So, it will be better if you turn off or even block a few depending totally on their importance.
DO NOT DISTURB
If you find yourself checking the phone every few minutes, it will be best to put it on zen mode or do not disturb. It will simply give you more hours to relax and using them in doing something productive. DND is one of the most underused mobile features, but once you enter into that zone, there would be no going back.
CHOOSE A GOOD WALLPAPER
Never underestimate the power of a good wallpaper. It might seem very insignificant but it can have an impact on your productivity. Choose a wallpaper that doesn’t distract you but helps you focus. Focus more on pastel colors with minimal background since it will help you calm your mind. You can also put some motivational quotes or reminders as your wallpaper which will keep you on the right track.
Digital minimalism is not an approach which you will inculcate in a night, it is a long journey that requires patience, commitment, and dedication towards achieving your end goal. But I can guarantee that once you enter into this lifestyle you will become more intentional, more productive, and more empowered.
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