Digital minimalism: how can we reduce the time we spend watching screens?

Every time I see a group of friends spending time together in a bar or a park but at the same time  glued to their phones, I ask myself how living without mobiles would be. Why? I think the answer is quite simple: If I’m with friends, I don’t need any technology between us. If I can do anything without any device, I will do it.

Why do we need to check our social media or Whatsapp when we are with somebody? Why do we need to know what other friends are saying or posting when we are already with friends? Can’t we wait? Maybe I’m a bit old school but I find this attitude disrespectful. That’s why, among other things, I believe we need to try to keep our screen time under control.

There are two ways to achieve it: avoiding using mobiles or reducing our exposure and use of screens. That means learning about digital minimalism. To put it in another way, using technology with more intention and purpose. As the book published by professor Calvin Newport states, we should be able to choose “a focused life in a noisy world”. 

Like never before we have access to a lot of information, a lot of stimuli, and easy gratifications, this is just posting a picture on Instagram, and receiving one or hundreds of likes and comments make us feel better, like instant dopamine for our brains. Apart from that and at the same time, with so much information around us, we can feel overwhelmed and perhaps feel that we don’t have enough time to do what we have to, maybe due to the fact that we can be easily  distracted. 

To summarize the key question is how to manage our time and to be deeply conscious of how we spend our time and where we put our energy. Moreover, how to improve our relationship with technology. Have you ever thought about how your life would be if you don’t have to check emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, any notification from your bank, or news app? At least, I’m sure it would be easier to focus on one task avoiding being distracted. 

It would be extremely effortless just deleting apps like Facebook or switching off our devices (this could be a good habit for a tech diet). But if we talk about “digital minimalism”, the point is using the screen just when it adds some value and to be aware of how this use has an impact on us. It’s complementary to the tech diet. It sounds like a child’s game  but to develop a digital minimalism mindset is challenging. 

  • Make a list of things you do with your phone and try to replace the mobile with another tool. For instance, if you use your smartphone as an alarm, try to dust an old analog clock off and remember the old times waking up without an endless snore function. Do you use Facebook to check birthdays and a calendar app? Maybe you can make an effort and buy a paper planner. Do you chat and chat and chat with the same person every day? Why don’t you rather try to call him/her? Do you need some instant positive feeling like the one we have when using social media and get likes? Try doing some exercise and/or helping others. It increases your well-being and also it’s good for your health and social life.

  • Take a break from apps that don’t add a real value to your routine. Forget the fear of missing out (FOMO). On the contrary, embrace the chance to reconnect with activities and hobbies you enjoy doing offline and being also with yourself. Besides, spending time alone and offline is important to think about what we want and how we want it. For example, focus on our objectives and set some short-term goals to achieve them.

  • Reduce the consumption of social media. As when you want to lose weight and reduce or avoid fast food, just limit the time and the type of interaction you are used to. For example, if you live abroad it is understandable to use Whatsapp to chat with your family, but it would be better to meet face to face with friends who live close to you and spend time with them without any screen around you.  

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