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Is “digital minimalism” the new digital detox?


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Photo: StockSnap/Bonnie Kittle

You’re halfway to work when you realize you left your phone on your dresser. Do you go back and get it or go the entire day without it? For many, it would be a no-brainer: go back. If you didn’t, there’d be no way to Instagram your lunch, Google Maps the directions to your workout later, and check work emails on your commute home.

For most people, being constantly tied to tech is the norm (hello, information economy). And yet it’s majorly affecting our health—a recent survey by the American Psychological Association showed that people who check their phones the most report the highest levels of stress.

What to do? A digital detox can be super-healing. But leaving your phone home on vacation is one thing—ditching it altogether at this point seems unthinkable. Enter: digital minimalism. According to Fast Company, t’s not as extreme as a full-on detox, instead offering up an ongoing lifestyle of (gasp) not being so connected 24/7.

What exactly does this look like? For Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World author Calvin Newport it means avoiding the social media trifecta—Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. (There’s a good bet he doesn’t have Snapchat either…)

Newport says he’s over FOMO. In fact, “I like missing out,” he tells Fast Company. “Less can be more.” Wondering how much time that saves? It comes out to about 118 minutes a day. (Whoa! Goodbye, sleep debt.)

Here’s how Newport defines digital minimalism: “It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.”

“I like missing out. Less can be more.”

Okay, but what if you can’t give up social media? Digital Minimalism founder Craig Link says another way to live it out is to give up anything causing you mental fatigue or making you unhappy—even slightly. For some, that might been deleting Facebook or disabling all push notifications. For others, that could mean setting a news curfew, only checking it once in the morning and that’s it. Another suggestion: Keep your phone on airplane mode, except during specific planned check-in times. Abiding by digital minimalism doesn’t have to look the same for everyone—not everyone has the same triggers.

“If our brains are always being entertained, we’re not allowing those a-ha moments to come to us.”

Jess Davis founded her company Folk Rebellion with helping people disconnect in mind, so she’s all about getting that break. “When we have quiet brains that aren’t consuming anything, that’s when problem-solving and innovation happen,” she says. “If our brains are always being entertained, we’re not allowing those a-ha moments to come to us.”

Is it a coincidence that the idea for her company didn’t come to her when she was doing research on the computer, but when she was actually completely unplugged? Your great idea could be a few missed push notifications away.

If you’re wondering what to do with all your new phone-free time, here’s how to plan a whole day of happiness for yourself. Or, take a blissed-out bath.