Reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
|Started:||February 11, 2019 (Ongoing)|
As part of joining my first book club ever (I'm excited!) I've started reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
I thought I hadn't read anything from the author, but turns out I had read a "comprehensive" summary of one of his previous books: So Good They Can't Ignore You.
Started working on it.
I can't keep myself from commenting on the irony that was not being able to get a book called "Digital Minimalism" in a "minimal" format. My reading experience is already quite simple, I read PDFs highlighting excerpts and extract them to Evernote. I recently started reading a physical book after some years, and it hasn't been optimal for the reasons I just mentioned.
Many times, even if I buy a book, I'll end up downloading a PDF for reading. In this instance not only was it impossible, I also wasn't able to get it anywhere other than Amazon. So I ended up installing the Kindle app on my phone.
Maybe this happened because I don't usually read books as they come out, I'm always reading books that are at least some months old (if not years). I'll use this opportunity to learn what's the experience of reading on the Kindle app. But I don't think it'll go beyond this one experience, specially after seeing Exodus' privacy report.
The introduction parts from an interesting position from my point of view. The author asserts that we live in a society addicted to technology and social networks. To which I'd mostly agree. But I don't feel identified at all, quite the opposite. I am well aware that most of my peers are, but I'm proud to be the odd man out in that regard. At least that's how I see myself.
What is interesting about this is that the author seems to associate technology with addiction. And the solution seems to be geared towards minimizing the use of technology. But what if technology is just a medium? For me, nothing beats a whiteboard. But I am a developer, I love programming, and I obviously can't do that without a computer. So I see my existence as interlinked with technology.
But I don't use social networks much, and I don't fall to "the hype". I know I'm not addicted to technology because when I break from it, when I go hiking or on holidays, I don't feel any withdrawal symptoms.
Anyways, there is this blog post I've wanted to write for a while tentatively titled "Progressive self enhancement", and I have the impression that it may be related to what the book will talk about.
Am I already living in Digital Minimalism? We'll see.
The first chapter talks about the current situation we find ourselves in, arguing that we didn't sign up for this and it happened under our noses. As you may have deduced in my previous comment, I was judging the author's words too much from my perspective and that's why I challenged some of his assumptions. But now I think it's a better approach to see his discourse as a description of society overall, not from the perspective of individuals. Doing that I can get the benefit from the parts that apply to me whilst also appreciating the others parts (learning about society).
On his explanation of the current situation of "always-on" addiction to social media and technology, there is something he doesn't mention that I also believe is interesting to ponder. And that is the predominance of "free" products in the market. Yes, free as in beer. One of the underlining motives the author gives to the way of acting for businesses is that they do it to maximize revenue. And the thing is, I'm not against businesses making money. But the problem is how that money is made. And by farming people instead of giving them a valuable experience, they are also hurting the industry because society has become reticent to pay for technological products. This has got the point that paying 1€ for an app is sometimes frown upon.
The second chapter of the book introduces a formal definition of Digital Minimalism and exposes its 3 fundamental principles: "Clutter is costly", "Optimization is important" and "Intentionality is satisfying".
I can already tell that I'm not, as I was pondering, a Digital Minimalist. But my values do align with the philosophy and I was already headed in a similar direction.
I'd say I'm adhered to the first two principles, they are things that I generally try to keep in mind and pay attention whenever possible. But the third principle has been a useful reminder. I am aware of how important it is to be intentional in my actions and choices. But I get myself into more things than I would like. I Often fall into the trap of starting something out of curiosity, without previous examination. And I can see how that's lead me to a situation of overwhelm that I don't enjoy.
It was particularly interesing to learn more about the Amish. As the author says most people (me included) thinks of them as an anti-technology. But it's far from that, what happens is that they take intentionallity when chosing new technologies to an extreme. And, maybe not surprisingly, they have deemed a lot of the technologies we use on a daily basis as inappropriate after careful examination.