Back in April, I read a book called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Using phones and computers less has always been something I have loved about traveling. It seems that many of the habitual checking of messages, emails, and various social media platforms seems to drop away when you have so much around you that inspires and fulfills you. This book was so much more than just an inspiration to put away the screens. It described the importance of using screens, technology, and media to our advantage.
It starts with a 30 day digital detox (which was much easier while I was hiking all day with minimal if any wifi) and then encourages you to add back in ONLY the apps, services, technological devises that serve your purpose for using the technology. Plus, it encourages you to think about how you’re using the technology. Since my greatest use for technology is connecting with friends and family, I thought I was doing pretty good. I didn’t want to get rid of Facebook because I like connecting with cousins from all over the states. I didn’t want to get rid of messaging because it’s how I stay in contact with most of my friends. However, after the 30 days I did notice big changes that I could implement in the way I was using the technology. For example, as much as I love keeping up with my friends through texting, I realized a 10 minute FaceTime conversation could supply us with the information we were trying to convey in what could have taken an hour of back and forth texting. Plus, the added perks of seeing each other’s faces, expressions, and cute (or not) hair styles brings us even closer. As much as it was fun every once in a while to see what old classmates were up to, I realized the benefits of narrowing down my Facebook friend list to my closest friends and family who I don’t see otherwise. Now when I get on Facebook I actually see stories of the people closest to me, organizations I want to see updates about, and people in the fields I am interested in and inspired by.
This has allowed me to spend more time writing longer hand emails to friends and family, narrowing down my role models, and focusing my attention on the groups and organizations I want to be a part of.
I’m not going to pretend that it has cured my deeply ingrained habit of checking my phone and the spark of dopamine that I get from having a message or notification. However, it has allowed me to take one step back and think about the times I do get on social media or look at a screen. I catch myself and think is this bringing me closer to or farther from connection?