In addition to keeping your relationships healthy in the minimalist pursuit, it is important to develop an intentional minimalist approach to technology. We are tremendously affected by the cyber world, and the technology behind it helps to both create and destroy meaning and fulfillment in our lives. This chapter will help you to identify what over-reliance on technology looks like and how you can best utilize the blessing that is technology and all that comes with it, in your journey towards minimalism.
A Few Facts About the Internet
According to the website becomingminimalist, which aims to educate people on how minimalism can improve their lives, there are many facts about the internet and technology that suggest that we now are addicted to technology as never before. Here are some facts from the website: Watching television can add up to six days of a person’s time over the course of one month Fifty-percent of individuals who own cellphones sleep next to their cellphones at night because they do not want to miss receiving any important messages, emails, or phone calls Nearly ninety-percent of television viewers are also on their phones doing something as they’re watching their favorite show or news channel There are some smartphone users out there who check their phones every six and a half minutes, on average Almost seventy-percent of smartphone users will check their phone for alerts and text messages even when they did not hear any type of sound or vibration coming from their phone Almost ninety-percent of cellphone users claim that they could not go a single day without their phone These statistics should open your eyes to the fact that people in general are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to get them through the day.
It is important to note that technology helps us to become more efficient, knowledgeable, and productive— there’s no question about that. However, if you think about the statistics listed above, they highlight the time wasted on technology. So, while technology comes as a blessing and as a tool of efficiency, productivity, and connectivity, there’s also a high chance that we overspend time on technology. People rely on technology for a variety of reasons, including better communication and contact with the people around them, but sometimes interaction with technology can run our lives in a negative and obsessive manner. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why “unplugging” is increasingly considered to be a positive form of technological interaction.
The Reasons Why You Should Consider “Unplugging” Today
The term “unplugging” refers to a situation where you choose to remove yourself from a situation where you interact with technology. Unplug to disconnect. Some people decide to commit to going one day out of the week without turning on a technological device or using the internet in any way.
Reason 1 to Unplug: Time off from the social rat race
One of the biggest reasons why unplugging is considered a positive idea by prominent researchers is that interaction with technology and, in particular, social media, can leave an individual with feelings of jealousy or loneliness. Let’s think about Facebook. If you have a Facebook account, ask yourself how much time you spend looking at other people’s photos and updates. Then consider how this information often makes you feel. While Facebook does bring the world closer in the sense that you can be friends with people all over the globe, people often only post personal updates on Facebook and other forms of social media when they’re proud of something or when they are looking to show-off.
You might end up feeling even more disconnected from the people you know, which is ironic as technology is supposed to solve the disconnectedness. You might start comparing yourself to the situation and circumstances of others. And all of these feelings are negative, and chip away at your self-esteem. Taking a couple of days out of the week to unplug can be healthy and relaxing.
Reason 2 to Unplug: FOMO
FOMO is an acronym that stands for “Fear of Missing Out”. When you are on social media and see other people having fun without you, you might wish you were included. Also, when you’re not on social media for a while, you feel anxious about missing an update from a friend or about an event, and becoming a late recipient of that information. Researches are actually starting to identify FOMO as a disorder. These researchers
also largely think that one of the primary reasons why FOMO is becoming more and more prevalent in young people is because of the constant advancements that within the technological realm. Instead of constantly thinking about what other people are doing and wishing you could take their place, wouldn’t it be better if you were able to enjoy what you were doing at that time? This is another simple pleasure that unplugging can offer you.
Reason 3 to Unplug: “Me Time”
Having a space and a time when you can have your thoughts to yourself, without the distraction of technology, can be a truly liberating experience. When you don’t have distractions like text messages and emails bombarding your brain every three minutes, you’re able to find clarity and calm. Sitting in silence can help us to abstain from giving into the constant noise that’s around us. If you experience a lack of solitude in your life, then this tactic of unplugging truly does help. For more advice on this topic it would be a good idea to go back to the chapter on minimalism and health and consider giving meditation a try.
Reason 4 to Unplug: Recognizing the Beauty That’s Around You
How many times have you logged onto your Facebook or Instagram only to find that you feed has been taken over by pictures of babies, weddings, and vacations? We probably all have friends who use their social media accounts as a way to document their children’s development and capture the good times in their lives, but when you pause and think about this tendency, you have to admit that this might not be the healthiest choice. When someone is constantly taking photos of their child to post on the internet, it’s not uncommon for them to start to look at their child more through a camera lens than through their real human eyes. Additionally, the child too will start to copy the parent’s obsession with their phone, and the jury is still out on how a child will develop when they have a heavy reliance on technology.
Instead of constantly taking photos of your child that you can show the world, and will only make you feel a false sense of recognition from people who don’t really matter, a better option is to simply take in the world that’s around you and appreciate it. Instead of putting your child or your vacation time through an unnecessary photo shoot, why not just stop, and really experience those moments?
Reason 5 to Unplug: Find Out if You’re Addicted
Often, it seems like a person does not even know when they are truly addicted to something until it’s taken away. How will you ever know how reliant you are on technology until you take it away from yourself? If you engage in this activity, it’s advised that you remove technology from your life for at least one day. Take this day to do something for yourself that doesn’t involve technology. Then see how you feel at the end of the day. You might feel anxious or as if you’ve been missing something for the entire day. It’s important to recognize these feelings as being indicators of a small addiction. If you find that you’re slightly addicted to your daily technology fix, then this is even more of a reason to unplug.
Hopefully, at least some of the topics are reason enough for you to realize that it’s a good idea to unplug from your gadgets at least once a week. If you can’t keep yourself away from technology for at least one day out of the week, then there are other options you can pursue. Instead of committing yourself to avoiding technology for an entire day or week, you could instead start by avoiding technology for only half of a day, or even for just a few hours. Gradually, you can try and work towards an entire day. Some other tactics to consider include the following:
Take an Extended Vacation from Your Technology. Devote yourself to taking a vacation from your Smartphone or other technological device that you might be spending too much time on. The length of time that you want your vacation to be might be a weekend, a few days, or even one day every month. Choose the length of time that will work best for you, and stick to it.
Exercise Self-Control through Technology itself. Applications such as SelfControl and Freedom are designed to help you waste less time online by prohibiting the use of certain websites and even the internet altogether for specific periods. You set the guidelines that you want to follow, and let these applications block your use of the internet for a predetermined period of time.
Devote the First Hour of Your Day to Yourself. What if you spent the first hour of your day away from the internet? After all, it’s more than likely that you have been away from your phone for at least seven or eight hours while you slept. What would be so bad about shutting out the world for an extra hour while you focus your energy on waking up and preparing for the day? Use this time in an efficient manner, and the rest of your day will likely feel more manageable.
The methods presented so far in this chapter are indirectly related to minimalism; they do not directly declutter your life, but technology can form mental clutter in the brain, that’s hard to get rid of. Next, instead of continuing to discuss how technology is potentially harmful to a minimalist lifestyle, we’ll look at ways that technology can help a person achieve greater minimalist ends. These methods will help you to see that technology, like anything else, needs balance in your life in order to provide maximum efficiency.
Reducing Physical Books from Your Life
I know, some people out there (myself included) love the feeling of a good book in their hands. The pressed pages and the physical feel of the book itself both contribute to a better reading experience. These things are nice, but the reality is that for a minimalist, books are largely seen as giant space takers. While it may take time to get used to reading your books on a screen, when you replace your large stock of books with a book reader or other type of mobile reading device, you are able to clear so much of the clutter away. These days, you are even able to get newspaper and magazine subscriptions delivered to your devices, which makes it easier than ever before to read without having the clutter that comes with this otherwise relaxing activity.
These days, you don’t even have to purchase cable television and you can still watch great shows every day. Instead of subscribing to shows that you don’t watch, and giving your cable company hundreds of dollars each month, why not opt to only pay for your internet instead? When you only have internet and no cable, you can spend your money subscribing to streaming applications like Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime and you can actually choose what you want to watch instead of being forced to settle for pre-scheduled shows.
Apple TV in particular is a great option to choose in exchange for subscribing to cable television because you can still watch some of the more desirable cable television channels. Assess your own cable television-watching habits before converting to this method, but also know that this is an option that many people, minimalist or not, are opting for. YouTube provides thousands of excellent documentaries for free.
If you’re someone who works in an office day in and day out and have worked in this manner for years, then you may be familiar with the ever-popular floppy disk. The floppy disk was replaced by CDs and DVDs, and then by flash storage devices, and today we have the ability to store information in cloud-based storage systems. These eliminate the need to have piles of paper, or outdated tech tools in a physical storage space, and they are a phenomenal space-saver. ICloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive are some nifty solutions.
There seems to be more of need than ever for photos to be accessible online rather than in physical form. If you currently have pictures in storage and want to convert them into ones that can be accessed on the internet, there are a few applications that might be of use. iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop Elements are both tools that you can use to organize photos that are already in digital form, while applications such as ScanDigital can easily guide you through the process of taking your physical photos and turning them into digital ones.
For all of the strategies presented, you should think about how to focus your energy on documenting most or all of your paper goods in digital form instead of in physical form. This will create less mess for you from a clutter perspective, and will also allow you to feel like your documents are in a safe and accessible place. Whenever you need a physical form of your documents or files, you can simply print out single copies. By reversing the way that you save, file, and organize your personal documents, you’ll be able to declutter your files with greater ease.
* Important statistics regarding technology consumption by Americans in recent years.
* Understanding why you should consider spending less time with your technology— unplugging at least once a week.
* Three ways that you can distance yourself from technology including taking a vacation from it.
* Understanding how technology can help you to organize yourself towards minimalist ends.
* Why and how you can establish a balanced relationship with technology that will still allow you to live a minimalist lifestyle.