I am working my way through Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. I picked it up again after I quit reading again a few weeks ago. But it is an important book for me to read. I want to finish it. I want to learn from Newport’s thoughts and experience. I want to spend less time on technology and more time doing things that nourish my soul.
The latter is something that has been in focus for a few weeks/months now. I took a sabbatical from Instagram several months ago, went back, caught myself doomscrolling, and deleted that IG app again. After my first IG sabbatical, I found and started reading Digital Minimalism and got to the point I was convinced that there are certain appetites I should not indulge1. I also deleted the Reuters new app from my iPhone, but left it on my iPad.
I check FB once or twice a day. I want to see if my kids posted anything, commented on one of my postings (I cross-post my weblog entries there), or if I received any DMs that need a response. Then I close the browser window.
This addiction is designed by the tech companies that produce the devices and the software that runs on them. IG, FB, X, and the others are all designed to provide that temptation to keep on scrolling. (Ooohhhhh… a sparkly!)
I now see that I will likely need to limit my YouTube access as well. I do not want to do away with YT; it is too valuable a resource to eliminate entirely. But I need to eliminate my use of it to occupy my mind with a nearly endless supply of fluff. It is not exactly doomscrolling, but it is close enough that I do not want to do it.
I usually check the Reuters news app on my iPad before I sleep. I spend a few minutes scanning the headlines and then reading a little if I want to know more. But I do not spend a lot of time on it.
I started noticing this addiction to our devices a couple-three years ago (maybe a bit more). Everywhere I went, I see people glued to the little glowing screen. They notice nothing of what is going on around them and see none of the beauty in the world. They are looking for that next dopamine hit, that “like” on a post or comment on a FB page.
When I visit my kids I see them doing the same thing. We sit in the living room, the three of us focused on the little glowing screen. I stopped much of that the last time I was there.
Instead, I got out my Kindle and worked on reading. I have a couple of books going on, usually. One will be a novel and the other something to learn from.
The Kindle has its own issues. There are too many books on my Kindle. I collect lots of samples of books I want (or think I want) to read. I usually push finished titles back to the cloud.
Yet, there are still too many books on my Kindle. I sometimes get stuck in a loop trying to decide what to read.
That is not a good thing.
I might need to go through my Kindle and delete the bulk of the content there. But that is another problem and another topic. At least I do not doomscroll through the Kindle. At least, I do not do that yet.
I made the capture Sunday afternoon at the restaurant in Bodine’s Casino. I went there after The Girl and I had a great hike out at Silver Saddle Ranch. I was hungry and could not decide whether I wanted a bar-burger or a Reuben sandwich.
The Reuben won the decision. Bodine’s has a decent sandwich. So we drove out there. I parked the rig in the sun and cracked the windows for The Girl. I went into the restaurant.
Yes, I had my iPhone with me. I did a quick check of email and then checked my open search lists on fleaBay. I then set my phone down on top of my hat. I decided not to use the phone as a distraction.
I noticed the people around me. There were several of us singletons there for a late lunch or early supper. I watched a couple in a window booth taking to each other. A woman across the aisle from me was working on her meal. Then I noticed the woman sitting alone in a window booth. She was fixated on her smartphone.
She made one of the captures I shot with the MPro app on my iPhone. The MPro app is a black and white camera application that only makes black and white images. It also produces high quality TIFF files as its output.
As I watched her, I thought about my own struggle with the digital black hole. I think I need to start carrying a small kit that has my Kindle, my journal (and a couple of pens), and a camera in it. The iPhone can serve as a decent camera, but I prefer a purpose-built tool for photography. But the iPhone will do in a pinch.
In the end, I believe that such a strong connection to a smartphone is not healthy. It takes us away from being present in the moment and in the place. It denies us the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings and the breath of life.
I think there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with use of the devices. But I think they present a risk to intellectual and spiritual health. I have decided to be less connected to my device and spend that time on things that nourish my soul, such as reading, looking around when I am outdoors, interacting with The Girl, and my inner spiritual life.
The iPhone will be there. But it is the servant, not the master.
1Hat tip to A Beautiful Mind.