Digital Minimalism Can Better your Relationships

Do you reach for your phone before washing your face in the morning?

Regularly find yourself down an Instagram wormhole, looking at a friend of a friend of a friend?

Do you sometimes feel that you’ve lost contact with yourself, abandoned your partner or friends, and substitute all these with their digital projection? Welcome to the curse of the century – displaced relationships.

We love our tech as much as anyone, but it occurs to us that now may be time for us all to stop and check in our digital selves. Ask some frank questions about our intentions. Our time on earth is precious so perhaps it’s time to be a little more selfish with how we give it away. To question whether we need to look at every story of our Insta feed, or catch up on the hot Netflix show, just so we can join in the chat at work? Ultimately, does it make us happy?

Rather than switching off the broadband and going cold turkey (although no one’s judging if you do), we’re loving concepts like digital minimalism and detoxing: new ways of consciously curating and moderating our relationships with tech. You’ve probably heard about Digi detoxes, but what is digital minimalism? It’s a philosophy where you focus on a few carefully selected and optimized digital activities that strongly support the things you value and then happily avoid everything else.

Sounds good? We think so, and we’re not alone… In the US, 17% of millennials state that reducing screen time is their top priority. One in five of us opt for a digital detox– daily, weekly, or once yearly – with 80% finding it genuinely liberating.

So what are the main benefits of digital minimalism? If we reduce our screen time, what’s the effect? And are mindfulness and technology compatible? It’s such a new area for research, and we‘re just at the beginning of our journey, but here are some of the main positives discovered so far…

Space to deal with ‘life’

The good, the bad, and the ugly. When we’re constantly busy and distracted by gadgets, we don’t have time to register, reflect on, or process how we really feel about all the stuff life throws our way. We simply move on to the next wave. Ever wondered why insomnia and anxiety are on the rise? Unprocessed emotions often creep up on us when we least expect them, so it’s time to act and help protect our mental health.

Greater fulfilment

What does modern downtime really look like? For many of us, it includes multi-tasking while swiping and messaging, devouring must-watch TV in one binge, or ‘relaxing’ the brain with the latest repetitive game (Candy Crush, we’re looking at you). Csikszentmihalyi, who first recognized the concept of flow, says that the activities which help us feel most satisfied and fulfilled are the ones that make us feel challenged and skillful. So, how about trying something different and giving it your full attention? Such as learning a new sport, setting a reading goal, smashing it, or showing up for an extra yoga class.

It trains your brain

Did you know that the average attention span dropped from 12 to eight seconds in just 12 years (2000-2012)? Or that extreme internet usage is linked with an increased risk of childhood ADHD? Our digital habits gradually infantilize our brains, conditioning us to process information in short timescales rather than long periods of deep focus. Is this a problem? Well, yes, according to research by Cal Newport suggests that the only way to reach our full brain potential is through long, distraction-free, deep work.

Clarity and calm

We’ve come to feel if we’re not constantly feeding our brains new data, we’ll experience some form of decay or erosion. We experience FOMOI: fear of missing out on information. But psychologists and researchers alike tell us to crowd our brains less and give them more breathing room. Our brains appreciate freedom from the input so they can blossom, flourish and serve us as best as they can.

Feeling less alone

One of the most giant puzzles of social media is that, while we’re constantly connected and just “a text away” from our best friends, rates of loneliness have more than doubled in the US alone in the past 50 years. According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 22% of adults in the US and 23% in the UK say they often feel lonely or isolated. These stats demand our attention. It’s now well known that loneliness is linked with physical pain, and there’s a 45% risk of mortality in those who report feeling lonely. Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Taking a social media break removes the illusion of these virtual connections and encourages IRL experiences.

We’re not suggesting throwing our phones away and heading into a tech-free utopia, but digital minimalism is worth reflecting on. Tech is a positive part of the modern world, with many potential routes to enhance learning and communication. You may just want to have a think about whether your life could benefit from a tweak here and there so that you feel your happiest and most fulfilled self.

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