Put your phone away

I just finished reading ‘Digital Minimalism’.

In it, Cal Newport explores how our constant use of technology is impacting our emotional and mental health. Since our twitch to constantly be connected has taken over the spare moments in our lives, we rarely experience moments of solitude (a disconnection from the ideas of other people) which is where emotional regulation takes place. As a result, we’re seeing Gen-Z (born between 1995 & 2010) who were raised and constantly connected to technology showing the highest levels of anxiety and lowest levels of resilience than any other generation.

Three points that struck me more than any other in this book:

  1. The ‘Like Button’ changed the way we use social media: Before the ‘Like Button’ was introduced to Facebook in 2009, it was a platform most of us used a couple of times a week to look at photos of our cousin's holiday or see what our high school friends were up to. The ‘like button’ changed each of our posts (photos, videos and status updates) to a shout for social approval. As ‘likes’ are measured in real time, we began to ‘check in’ more often to see the progress of our post. Now Gen-Z checks social media on average 100 times a day. As a result, we’ve lost the ability to be alone with our own thoughts, and it’s something we need to work on.

  2. We should create rules around the way we use our time online: We don’t need to be online as much as we think we do. Instead, we should create boundaries around how we use our online time. If you’re struggling with the constant twitch to be connected, maybe you should allocate time each afternoon to check your social media, visit the sites you’re interested in and then not touch it again until the following day. Or you could carry a notepad around and collect websites you’re interested in learning more about and then dedicate an hour or two on a Sunday to read through these websites.

  3. Use free time for high-quality leisure You’ll have a lot of spare time as a result of using your time more wisely. It’s in this space we can now commit to what Aristotle called ‘High-Quality Leisure’. This is time spend on things that add value to our lives - for some, it might be reading, learning a new language or playing the guitar. For others it might be spending time with those you love, cooking or working on the project you just don’t have time for.

It turns out that when we use our time well, we have a lot more time for the things that we really care about.