Digital decluttering: Tips on choosing a focused, purposeful life in the wake of social media

Digital decluttering: Tips on choosing a focused, purposeful life in the wake of social media

Choose digital minimalism

Text: Janice Sim

There never is a dull day. From the moment we rise from our beds, a tap on our smartphones awaken our senses, akin to a push of a button to jumpstart a lifeless system. Come night, that same hard device also tends to be the last thing we touch or see right before we close our eyes. Just like a switch flicked back off. Some might call it a vicious cycle.

But hardly; we're filled in everyday, constantly intrigued, inspired, provoked, outraged by what we consume online. Life is colourfully coded. But is that always a good thing? Not always.  

Digital Detox

Last week, a blasphemous malfunction on Facebook and Instagram caused quite the stir. Not because our information was leaked, but because we were denied the function of posting anything. It was a frustrating event, involving violent taps and countless refresh attempts. We felt empty that we couldn't tell the world about what we were doing — even though call services and texting apps were still running smoothly, it was a clear void.

A wake-up call is what it was. How frightening the impact of social media and digital consumerism is. That when your voice on social handles are completely cut off, the world grows dark and seemingly meaningless.

In Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism - Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, the associate professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University as well as author of six self-improvement books breaks down the harsh realities of what we're exactly dealing with. There's no way we could ever change or diminish the reckoning of the Internet, but we can, try to choose our own paths without allowing the intangible technology determine our life's worth. Here are some of his two cents:


Decide on optional technologies; that you will abstain from over the course of 30 days. For instance: it could be sites and apps like Reddit, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, while you hold on to others like Instagram and Whatsapp. Losing lightweight contact with your friends over these apps over the course of 30 days might help clarify which friendships were real and perhaps even strengthen the ones that remain. Once you've tided through the month-long fast, consider each optional technology and ask yourself this: "Does this technology support something that I deeply value?" Once you've done that, set rules to when and how long you will log on to those sites and apps.

Digital detox


We don't give solitude enough credit. In fact we avoid it like the plague. Somehow, we hate to be alone with our own thoughts, that at every chance we get, we plug in or scroll mindlessly on our Facebook feed. But if you give it a chance, you might be able to thrive as a human being.

1. Leave your phone at home
It could be done in many forms; whether it be for a quick morning errand or a full evening out, which depends on your comfort level. If you succeed with this, it means you can stop being so sure that not having your phone is a crisis.

2. Take long walks alone
Preferably somewhere scenic, and without the company of any technology. If you're wearing headphones, heavily involved in a group chat, or god forbid, narrating a stroll on an Instagram Story, that isn't a long walk alone.

Digital detox

3. Write letters to yourself
Make time to write to yourself, which naturally shifts you into a state of productive solitude. This also provides you with a structured way to make sense of the important things are happening in your life at that moment. 

Digital detox


The button of social approval is literally the least informative type of nontrivial communication. Put simply, you should stop using them. While you're at it, stop leaving comments on social media posts like "So cute". Remain silent. If you eliminate these trivial interactions cold turkey, your mind registers that conversation isw what counts. Refusing social media interactions might mean that you'll lose some people; those whose relationships with you exists only over social media. Let them go. 


Focus on joyful activities that are high-quality leisure. They're important to a well-crafted life. These quality activities fill the void your screens were previously tasked to help you ignore.

1. Fix or build something every week
Start with easy projects in which you can follow step-by-step instructions more or less directly. Once comfortable, advance toward more complicated endeavors that require you to fill in the blanks.


2. Schedule your digital habits
Work out specific time frames to which you'll indulge in web surfing, social media checking and entertainment streaming.

3. Join something
Join first then work out the issues later. It could be a local sporting league, committee at church or a volunteer group. You can reap the benefits of connecting with others in your own community. 

Digital detox

Digital Minimalism — Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport is now available at all major bookstores.