16 Quotes from Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Each book that I’ve read by Cal Newport has changed my life in deep, sustained, and long-term ways. Often his philosophies take root and sprout changes months after reading his books. Digital Minimalism is no exception. While the main thrust of the book is a 30-day detox of social medias and other endless voids, he argues that each service we use should have a specific purpose and value that it adds to our life based on specific goals that we state ahead of time. In short, he argues that we should have a philosophy for technology. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

digital minimalism

  1. In my work on this topic, I’ve become convinced that what you need instead is a full-fledged philosophy of technology use, rooted in your deep values, that provides clear answers to the questions of what tools you should use and how you should use them and, equally important, enables you to confidently ignore everything else (xi).
  2. The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life (ix).
  3. The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your likes” is the new smoking.” - Quote from Bill Maher (8)
  4. Digital Minimalism - a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else (27).
  5. Even when a new technology promises to support something the minimalist values, it must still pass a stricter test: Is this the best way to use technology to support this value? (27)
  6. Minimalists don’t mind missing out on small things; what worries them much more is diminishing the large things they already know for sure make a good life good (29).
  7. This is why clutter is dangerous. It’s easy to be seduced by the small amounts of profit offered by the latest app or service, but then forget its cost in terms of the most important resource we possess: the minutes of our life (40).
  8. Outsourcing your autonomy to an attention economy conglomerate—as you do when you mindlessly sign up for whatever new hot service emerges from the Silicon Valley venture capitalist class—is the opposite of freedom, and will likely degrade your individuality (57).
  9. The Digital Declutter Process:
    1. Put aside a thirty-day period during which you will take a break from optional technologies in your life.
    2. During this thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you find satisfying and meaningful.
    3. At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies into your life, starting from a blank slate. For each technology you reintroduce, determine what value it serves in your life and how specifically you will use it so as to maximize this value (59).
  10. To allow an optional technology back into your life at the end of the digital declutter, it must:
    1. Serve something you deeply value (offering some benefit is not enough).
    2. Be the best way to use technology to serve this value (if it’s not, replace it with something better).
    3. Have a role in your life that is constrained with a standard operating procedure that specifies when and how you use it (75).
  11. Solitude Deprivation A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds…For one thing, when you avoid solitude, you miss out on the positive things it brings you: the ability to clarify hard problems, to regulate your emotions, to build moral courage, and to strengthen relationships. If you suffer from chronic solitude deprivation, therefore, the quality of your life degrades…Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired (102).
  12. 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.” - Quote from Holly Shakya (141)
  13. To be clear, conversation-centric communication requires sacrifices. If you adopt this philosophy, you’ll almost certainly reduce the number of people with whom you have an active relationship. Real conversation takes time, and the total number of people for which you can uphold this standard will be significantly less than the total number of people you can follow, retweet, like,” and occasionally leave a comment for on social media, or ping with the occasional text. Once you no longer count the latter activities as meaningful interaction, your social circle will seem at first to contract (149).
  14. Digital minimalists see new technologies as tools to be used to support things they deeply value—not as sources of value themselves. They don’t accept the idea that offering some small benefit is justification for allowing an attention-gobbling service into their lives, and are instead interested in applying new technology in highly selective and intentional ways that yield big wins. Just as important: they’re comfortable missing out on everything else (252).


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