My Motivation Behind Digital Minimalism

July 14, 2020

tl;dr: Digital minimalism allows me to regain lost control and increases my quality time as well as time for hobbies and other interests.

What the hell?

In general, people are incredulous when telling them that I do not own a smartphone. Even though a few people understand my intention, they would rarely commit doing the same. Therefore, I think I must explain my motivation behind digital minimalism a bit more precisely.

Not having a smartphone is just the first step for me. I want to avoid digital life as much as possible. If, however, digital life is unavoidable I consequently use open source software only. While this sounds as if I am making it unnecessarily difficult for myself, especially regarding my computer science studies, it is a great relief for me in various ways.

There are different levels of digital minimalism and everyone must find the right dose for themselves. Certainly, my way seems very radical, but small steps are sufficient to feel a change.

You can do without

As mentioned before, I do not own a smartphone. Also no e-book reader, no smart TV, no smart watch and certainly not a fucking smart fridge or anything else that does not need to be smart. I am just using a laptop and a dumbphone. That is quite enough.

My laptop runs OpenBSD and I am cautious to use only minimal programs and do almost everything directly from the terminal to reduce complexity and increase my productivity. The dumbphone is mainly used to be reachable in time critical emergencies.

Neither my work nor my university studies require any additional equipment. Life requires none at all. Hardly anyone used anything smart before the 2000s. It is amazing how smart devices are now almost indispensable for many people.

Finally, control again

Digital minimalism is not only about the devices you use or do not use, it is also the attitude of how you use them. I do not need social media and I also do not need the 387th account on a service where I am not the owner of my own data. If I register somewhere now, I have thought about it thoroughly before. Unfortunately, countless people lose track on how many services they are registered. Try to list all your online accounts yourself. You will probably soon notice that you cannot remember all of them.

Every service that you use online generates personal data that can be exploited. Therefore, I want to have control over my data and data flow.

Get rid of the drug

Over time, I realized how addicted I was. I was not only dependent on the infrastructure of others, but I was really hooked. In every free minute I picked up my smartphone and looked up what news there was in the world. First, I updated my Instagram feed, then Facebook and oh look, I got a new snap! The world was always available to me and I was always available to the world.

Not only have I wasted my time, but I have also lost the ability to concentrate. Constant interruptions caused my attention span to decrease. Besides losing time, I was manipulated by countless actors who wanted to monetize me.

Open your eyes

About 3 years ago, I made a radical break and I do not miss anything. I have closed almost all online accounts and sold all non-essential equipment. Just then I realized how screwed up this society is with its compulsion for self-expression and self-optimization. I never liked the whole nonsense, but I was just too glad to be a spectator.

A lot of people are too afraid that they would miss something if they got rid of social media, news and so forth. This differs greatly from my experience. Just as long as you can keep scrolling and updating the feeds, you feel like you might miss something. Believe me, you will lose that fear, when you separate yourself from all of that.

I now enjoy the time when I am on the road and am not constantly available. When I do something with family and friends, they now get my full attention and I do not let myself be distracted by anything. The biggest gain for me personally was to get time for self-reflection. The time at the bus stop is no longer just another chance to satisfy the addiction, but now serves as time to reflect. To think about everything that is going on in my head at that moment.