Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Among many books critical of social media use, Digital Minimalism is a very accessible and useful read. It synthesizes just enough research and anecdotal examples to be convincing and then offers well-reasoned recommendations for how to choose a more intentional approach to internet-based media consumption.
Compared to his previous few books, Newport does a better of job of collecting a diversity of voices in his reportage, which strengthens the book’s arguments and its accessibility to a wider audience. By emphasizing intentionality rather than a more ideological argument about life purity or economic extortion, Newport offers a big tent for folks to choose to discard the more insidious aspects of smartphone app design, while finding and optimizing for the specific ways platforms can provide value.
To me, the most profound aspect of the digital minimalism philosophy was emphasizing the value of solitude. I had not thought deeply about the idea that humans had evolved to sort through complicated questions during the vast tracts of solitude that were the norm for most of human existence. Solitude has always been a core aid in my work as an academic, but I had not been particularly conscious of it. Now I am seeking out solitude, while also following the advice to reclaim high quality leisure activities, so as to chip away at the perceived value of smartphone use during idle hours.
As a scholar of social media, I am actually embarrassed by how good and useful I am finding Digital Minimalism. I think others will find it useful too.