A millennial’s approach to Digital Minimalism

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It was back in March that I read Dr.Cal Newport’s book, “Digital Minimalism”, and my first blog entry, chronicling my digital minimalism journey, was dated back in April. Ironically, it is the hashtag #digitalminimalism that has linked me to alot of people who adopted the lifestyle, and graciously share their experiences in the digital world. It is definitely a catch-22 phenom, because without the internet, I wouldn’t be able to discover Digital Minimalism.

I have drawn alot of values not only from the book, but from people who manage to integrate digital minimalism into their lives, yet maintain their social presence and stay connected. I want to focus solely on using social media with this post, because as a millennial, who have alot of friends who are also millennials who are glued to their phones (I say this lovingly as a former addict), I want to share some practical tips on how you can adopt the Digital Minimalism philosophy to better your life (without feeling deprived)

Limit your time on social media

Set aside a designated time for social media, whether it’s posting, or browsing. While it’s completely up to your preference, I personally advice against logging in too early in the morning. Your phone shouldn’t be the first thing you grab when you wake up in the morning. I find that it is simply too distracting and if you come across a negative post, it has the potential to disintegrate the rest of your day.

Be selective with who, and what information you keep up with

I want to focus on instagram here, because it’s the primary social media platform I now use. (My personal facebook account has been deactivated since March) I believe to truly extrapolate values from social media, we have to be intentional with who and what information we follow. One tip I have is to think of your brain as a garden you are trying to nurture : you only want the best information to enter it, so you can nourish it.

Be picky with your following list, and use the mute function generously. That way, you don’t feel overwhelmed with the constant information overload, with topics you have no interest in. Still, if you want to keep up with your friends and their babies, you can still go to their profile. Or even better, like Dr. Cal Newport has mentioned in his book, make a conscious effort of meeting them for a coffee and interact with them in real life.

Schedule a designated time for emails/watsapp etc

I have to be honest, while I am fine with not using social media, I am less frugal with my time spent on emails/watsapp. I still have a tendency to repeatedly log into my emails and reply my watsapp messages on the go. But I am definitely more aware of my behaviour. Chances are, if people need to reach you urgently, they will call you. I find that if I batch reply my emails and messages, I am much more patient with my replies and I string better sentences. (Great way to practice writing)

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Limit distraction on your phone

Nathaniel Drew has a great video on Digital Minimalism, on minimizing distracting apps on your phone. For instagram, I uninstall and reinstall it only when I want to use it. (The inconvenience alone is enough to withhold my impulses of constantly checking it) And I’ve removed all social media apps (emails/watsapp etc) from the first page on my phone.

A 6 months follow up since integrating Digital Minimalism into my life 

Even thou the lists above may seem short, but even just incorporating them into my life, I have feel significant improvement in my pursuit of bettering myself. My prep was better because I wasn’t constantly comparing myself to others on social media, (nutrition and bodybuilding has always been my interest, and I have been fortunate to feed my “garden” with the best evidence based information only) I never have a deadline and my productivity with work has increased significantly. I no longer feel overwhelmed that I have to “keep up” with postings on my photography social media, I put in more thoughts and I curated a feed that I actually like. I became more conscious with my postings on social media, because like how I’ve drawn values from other’s sharing, I want my posts to bring values to others too. I have since enrolled in Mac Nutrition Uni, and I am working towards my goal of being a Mac Uni certified nutrition coach.

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Privately, I am much more present with my family. I no longer have the impulsive thoughts of constantly reaching for my phone, documenting every fucking thing. One of my favourite moment that I look forward to everyday, is to visit this neighbourhood park near my house, and my husband and I would sit side by side and talk to teach other, without the distraction of our phones, while watching Anya plays.

I hope I have convinced you to start your path on Digital Minimalism, start with the book, and check out how other people have integrate it seamlessly into their lives. (I personally highly recommend both Nathaniel Drew and Matt D’avella’s videos on digital minimalism) There’s also an app called Forest (you plant a tree and whenever you touch your phone, the tree will wilt, it’s an great app when you try to focus on a task, the reward mechanism helps cement the habit)

A digital minimalist wanabe

Some life updates before I dive into the topic of digital minimalism and social media (from the perspective of a former social media addict) I think it’s time for me to stick to a more rigid posting schedule here because if I wait for my “mood” to strike..I’ll never sit down and write.

But on a more positive note, I have been very consistent with working on my book project. I use all the strategy from the book “Deep Work”, I stick to the same writing schedule, the same writing location, I walk without distraction so I can “write in my head” . When I went back to KL for a short vacation last week, I brought my laptop with me so I can still fit in the hour long “Deep work”. The perks of being an early riser is that I have atleast a couple of hours to myself each morning, I wake up, make my bed,  I meditate, then I practice my posing. After that, I clean myself up, make myself a meal, eat, and proceed to write for about an hour long. I am not sure how it’s gonna go or when I’ll finish it, but I put in the work each day, everyday, without fail.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King”

So I thought alot about digital minimalism and being a former social media addict. When I visited my family in KL last week, the first thing my sister asked was, “Mimi, (a nickname given by my family), did anybody “interview” you?” I was dumbfounded, I did not get her joke. She then proceeded to tell me how most of my relatives are concerned with my well being (my cousins, my aunts, they’re all very active on Facebook and since I am all the way over here on the east coast, facebook is the only place where they can sort of keep up with me) . My cousin, who is a Generation-Z (people who are born after 1990s), was concerned that there is something wrong with me and my husband and that’s why I took my Facebook off. I hadn’t expected these sort of speculations because, well, I am obviously no celebrity.

“Where we want to be cautious . . . is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post.” 

I didn’t think I needed to give anyone any explanation on why I took my personal social media off, perhaps I hadn’t consider how ingrained social media is in most of our lives, and my act has caused some genuine concern from my family. However, it’s funny if you think about it, I am still here, I am just a phone call away. I am still rather responsive on watsapp (however, I am currently strategising on how I can remove it without jeopardising my work) I keep in close contact with everyone that I know and care about and vice versa, they can easily reach me. This certainly makes me think alot about how people are more prompt to follow/likes/occasional comment, and less inclined to initiate phone call (or even a direct text message)

Although I value my time in solitary (this is crucial especially when my work involves  socialising with people), But I am by no means a cave man and I can be rather sociable too. I am not anti social, I am simply semi anti social media. (the semi does give away the level of commitment I have with anti social media lol) Ever since I limit my use of social media, I have more energy to interact with people that I genuinely want to connect with,  I go out of my way to schedule meet ups, video calls, phone calls, etc.

This is not to say I don’t see values in social media. I keep up with my work instagram, and I eventually went back to creating another account just to keep up with certain people/information that interests me, especially within the bodybuilding realm. After the detox, I no longer feel the pull it had towards me, and I am rather careful with how I use it now, to extract values which adds into my life, not the other way around.

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Quite frankly, I feel rather secluded since I live in a small town and I don’t have any friends who are into lifting near me, and I do miss some kind folks I’ve met through the lifting community. I have to thank my dear friend Dorothy (whom I’ve also met through instagram) for scheduling this mini meet up for me. I remember feeling so comforted that I have these people whom I can discuss food/dieting/training with, towards the end of the night, I remember telling them how great it was to sit across them and talk to them face to face.

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And then there was also this meet up with my high school friends from over 17 years ago…let’s just say we all aged pretty gracefully.

“Being less available over text, in other words, has a way of paradoxically strengthening your relationship even while making you (slightly) less available to those you care about. This point is crucial because many people fear that their relationships will suffer if they downgrade this form of lightweight connection. I want to reassure you that it will instead strengthen the relationships you care most about. You can be the one person in their life who actually talks to them on a regular basis, forming a deeper, more nuanced relationship than any number of exclamation points and bitmapped emojis can provide.”