Yesterday I listened to a podcast which totally affirmed and aligned with my own thoughts and feelings of late. It was about ‘digital minimalism’. Apparently, this is a new trend that is gaining traction quickly as people are starting to feel the negative effects of digital overload/overwhelm, and I expect it’s most appealing to people of my generation who are old enough to remember what life was like before we were interrupted every few minutes with a notification sound..! As you know, I’ve recently taken a break from my Instagram account, and I really thought I would miss it as I’ve had some fun interactions with loyal followers via that social media platform. But it’s been a few weeks now, and I’m considering deleting the app from my phone altogether; that’s how much I don’t miss it! I’ll admit, I did check it a few times a day at first, just to see if anyone had ‘liked’ me or posted a comment. But now I don’t even think about it; I forget the app is even on my phone. After listening to the podcast, I also deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I intend to keep my Facebook page but I’ll only use it on my desktop – the purpose of this resolution is to wean me off my compulsive habit of checking my phone every few minutes…
The podcast I’m referring to is an interview of Prof. Cal Newport, and in it they discuss his latest book, “Digital Minimalism”. I found the second half of the interview most interesting, and one of the ideas they discussed really shocked me. He explained how the social media platforms invented ‘likes’ to stimulate an addictive response of checking our social media accounts on our phones (which they needed in order to make more money from us), and they were inspired by the design principles of slot machines in Vegas. The idea is that if the person using the slot machine (or social media platform) receives intermittent rewards, they are compelled to continue pulling the lever (or checking their app) in the hope that they might receive a reward this time – and what better reward for a human being than a ‘Like’ (= social approval), right? As I listened to this conversation, it dawned on me that I have been addicted to gambling with social media these past few years! For me, the very association of gambling and slot machines has such an ingrained stigma attached to it that I am determined to break my addiction. I already have a life full of analogue activities (knitting, hanging out with my chickens, gardening, etc.) so I don’t expect it will be too difficult to do. Note that this is not about ‘turning my back on technology’, but about being in control of how/when I use it rather than having it control me. As Prof. Newport explains, most of us are attracted to the possibilities inherent in new technology, we are compelled to have it for FOMO, and then we figure out how we can fit it into our lives and find a use for it (the classic example is any new feature on Instagram 🙄). However, ideally what we should be doing is figuring out what we want in our lives first, then looking to see how technology can make it happen.
He also suggested we should be quitting text messaging, but I don’t know about that just yet! I have come to prefer texting over voice conversations, to be honest. I find them so much more patient than ringing phones – I can answer them when I’m good and ready, not in the middle of dinner, haha!
If you want to listen to the podcast yourself, check out: https://drchatterjee.com/social-media-making-ill-cal-newport/
PS. the above image is taken from https://www.cnet.com/news/instagrams-explore-page-will-now-feature-ads/