Exploring the idea of digital minimalism

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post on digital minimalism written by Cal Newport…

I’ve followed Cal Newport for years. A computer science professor at Georgetown University, Newport writes about the intersection of society with technology.

If you’re not already familiar with his blog or his books, it might surprise you to learn that he’s vehemently opposed to digital media. In a recent blog post — titled, “On the Pleasures and Sorrows of Life Without Screens” — he relays the stories of a number of people who went cold turkey on technology.

Here’s how Newport puts it:

[When I suggest that you] spend 30 days away from optional technology as a prelude to simplifying your digital life, [people] often predict that the main challenge will be compensating for the benefits and features they’ll miss out on. But this prediction is almost always wrong. Most people report that after a week or so of some mild withdrawal symptoms, they’re surprised by how little they miss the features of services like Twitter or Instagram.The real problem — and this surprised me — is figuring out how to deal with all the free time this move toward minimalism suddenly injects into your life.

I took my own step towards digital minimalism almost a year ago when I stopped following Facebook. I cannot tell you how much time it has saved me and how much pleasure it has given me to get that monkey off my back.

Many people tell me they don’t have the time to write. Here’s what I want to ask them: How much of your life are you giving to social media? Do you think you could take some of it back?

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on June 3/19.

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