Digital Minimalism

Addiction - Doomscrolling - Junk Content - Control - Limitations - Peacefulness

Hello, I am Nicolas Bustamante, and each week, I write about concepts and methods to build successful businesses.

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We are today connected to everything and everyone in mere seconds. We access any content on any topic where ever it takes place on the planet. If we wish to dig in more, we can read and watch endless information on the internet. There is no end to such stimulation that may result in addictive behaviors. Are we digital addicts?

Decades ago, critics lamented about people's addiction to the radio and, before, blamed the distracting power of books. I believe that new technologies are a net positive for humanity. It is, however, crucial to master the tool, or the tool will master you. These technologies poorly apprehended can create a mixed feeling of anxiety, depression, and emotional stress.

Today, if something happens anywhere on the planet, such as a terrorist attack, we can watch it, often in real-time, and then explore an endless amount of information and commentaries made by anyone. This is a great option. Better to have it than not. The business model of the companies that created these innovations is to capture people's eyeballs with a free product to sell attention to advertisers. There is nothing wrong with that. The conditions are known, and it's fantastic to benefit from such good products for free.

You have to remember that you are the product. These companies will find any vulnerabilities in human design to trigger smoking-like addiction for people to use their products more. They will use people's social status-seeking and tendencies to conform to the group to create compulsive habits. The unfortunate consequence is that we might surrounder precious assets such as our time, attention, and sometimes, our happiness. We must learn to master these tools.

We focus a lot on diet and nutrition. We encourage a healthy body, but what about a healthy mind? I believe that information diet is vital. We should be as careful with our information diet as we are with our food diet. The quality of our thinking is the average of the content quality we consume. I'm always amazed by the quantity of junk content people can swallow. It's far more dangerous than junk food because our body doesn't limit us so much. Your body will stop you after eating two or three burgers but won't hold you back when you pour terabytes of junk content into your brain. For all these reasons, I'm in favor of digital minimalism.

I deleted all social media except for Twitter. Regarding the latter, I don't use the mobile app, I don't follow anyone, and I rely exclusively on custom lists that have a higher signal-to-noise ratio. I even set up a time limit of ten minutes per day on my iPhone to avoid doomscrolling. Regarding news websites, I use a browser extension to block them all. My goal is to eliminate short-term content that causes stress without adding value. Recently, I deleted my email iPhone app because I tended to open it too much without necessarily answering the email. Now when I open my mailbox twice a day, I answer all emails. Needless to say that I have almost no notifications nor distractive apps - I don't even have Netflix or Spotify.

More broadly, I rely only on "Lindy" content. The Lindy effect is a theory that the future life expectancy of things like an idea is proportional to their current age. Every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy and thus higher quality. For instance, real-time news is often quickly forgotten, so it doesn't pass the Lindy examination. On the contrary, if an article, video, or book is still popular after ten years, you can expect it to remain popular for the years to come. I rely on books rather than articles, movies rather than videos, etc. The older the content, the better. It's impossible to tell the relevance, let alone the truth, of a piece of content in a short period. Our best ally, time, will tell. It's about decades, not years.

Digital minimalism means mastering technology and using it deliberately. It means being the boss, not the slave of any apps willing to control our behaviors. Without all these distractions, I'm more focused on things that matter. I have no trouble doing deep work without interruptions, and my creativity is enhanced. By looking less at my phone and computer, I rediscovered the peacefulness and the productivity of solitude. Most things online are faked and short-sighted. By living for yourself, you avoid playing an endless status game filled with greed, envy, and jealousy. It feels good not outsourcing our brainpower to an app and to think for ourselves. It's about being active versus passive, about connecting with people offline versus online, having high-quality physical time versus low-quality digital time. It’s about living and expediting life!


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