Thirty days ago I deleted Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram from my iPhone. This was the beginning of the process of digital decluttering, which Cal Newport suggests to start with in his highly recommendable book “Digital Minimalism” (Amazon Affiliate-Link). For a period of 30 days, one dispenses with optional technologies and uses this time to devote oneself to other activities and behaviors. With the clarity of this 30-day abstinence, you then determine for each technology how it enriches your life, whether it is the best technology to do so, and if so, how it can be used optimally.
Digital minimalism definitively does not reject innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people currently engage in those tools.Cal Newport (2019). Digital Minimalism.
I didn’t completely do without Twitter and LinkedIn during this time, because they are important channels and platforms for me as an author and networker. But without the corresponding apps and their messages on the iPhone, the use via laptop was mostly limited to the evening hours. In the meantime, I even deleted Instagram completely, because I was tired of the desperate attempts to lure me by e‑mail and I had hardly any use for it anyway.
Since 2010 I have been using an iPhone and social media. I can’t remember ever leaving my iPhone somewhere unnoticed for a longer period of time. It was always an important tool for me. In any case, I rationalized my use of it in this way. Accordingly, the average screen time before digital decluttering was between two and three hours per day.
During the last few weeks, my iPhone spent most of the time out of sight at my desk, which I rarely had to visit thanks to my parental leave. Since then, my screen time has been well under an hour — including Headspace, which I use for meditation, and Downdog, which helps me with my yoga practice.
Less, but Better
Dieter Rams created countless design classics as chief designer of Braun, which Steve Jobs also appreciated very much. As early as 1970, he summarized his minimalist understanding of design in his ten principles for good design, which are more relevant today than ever before. “Less, but better” is one of his succinct maxims, which has been guiding me not only in terms of design, but also in other areas of life for quite some time now.
Nevertheless, for a long time I was insatiable about new technologies, all of which have their justification and undeniable benefits. I gladly let myself be tempted by them and then let myself be drawn further and further under their spell. Like Alice in Wonderland, I fell deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of unintentional use and aimless browsing through endless streams of more or less trivial updates. And then there was no time left to just sit there and look at yourself as Astrid Lindgren aptly describes these moments that are so important for the human brain.
Digital decluttering has made me aware again of the value of these moments of idleness as well as the value of undivided attention in general. It was no loss to no longer be able to follow the latest reactions to posts on Twitter or LinkedIn. On the contrary, I found it very liberating, because I knew that I would take care of it in the evening, just like I did with my e‑mails.
That is absolutely sufficient and stays that way now.
Good technology is as little technology as possible. Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and life is not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.Freely adapted from Dieter Rams ten principles for good design.