Digital minimalism experiment step 2: detox review

This summer I decided to commit myself to a digital detox experiment which meant reducing my technology use significantly. You can read more about the exact rules and background in my previous post.

So how did it go?

Overall I would say quite well! I obeyed most of my own rules quite nicely and my overall technology consumption did fall dramatically during July. For me it was definitely a good decision to completely delete all the most harmful apps as I noticed I was opening then almost reflexively otherwise. 

Sticking to my computer usage rules felt most difficult actually. ”Taking care of something” like buying new clothes for the kids almost always takes at least 30minutes, often more and as I wasn’t using my computer that much otherwise (as I was on holiday), it didn’t feel as bad to use the computer e.g. for 45minutes a day. Still having the set 15-30 min limit helped me be more critical about my computer use and try not to hang around browsing stuff unnecessarily long. 

Sometimes I also cheated by using Safari on my phone to research something or check email which I was not supposed to do. Although in the end I don’t know if the researching stuff is so bad. It’s actually often a good option to check e.g. the opening hours of a store on the phone. The risk is only that you always start googling random stuff too much. 

I do check Whatsapp very often and still take the mobile phone to my hand a bit more than I probably should. Removing almost all notifications – most of which I had removed earlier already –  helped a lot though. What made a surprisingly big difference was changing the Whatsapp notification settings so that I got a notification only as a symbol in the app, but NOT as banner or as locked screen notification. Other people probably are less “squirrelly” than I am, but for me those locked screen notifications would immediately cause a big itch to check the message. Now it felt more natural to take longer breaks and then check new messages grouped. 

Overall I would give myself a 9 out of 10 in this experiment 🙂

Main insights

The main insight was definitely that mobile apps are like crack! They are super addictive and as soon as you remove the most harmful ones (for me mainly social media and news) from your phone it’s much more difficult to overuse your phone. I mean, I don’t stay on Google Maps searching for alternative routes for fun and there are only so many times checking the weather forecast is interesting 😉 I will definitely stay off the harmful mobile apps also in the future and will not download them back to my phone.

What surprised me was that I missed the social media apps surprisingly little. I do use Whatsapp very actively as I manage my whole social life there but it felt like a much healthier alternative as you do not hang around in Whatsapp ”scrolling old chats”. The communication in Whatsapp is also typically more of a dialogue and consists of agreeing when to meet in person, so again a much better alternative to mindlessly scrolling through Insta stories or giving out random likes.

In general I felt calmer and more present. Still, it wasn’t like I had a huge enlightenment experience and everything totally changed. But it did feel nice to be able to concentrate better on one thing at a time. Not reading the news also helped me stay a lot more serene: I noticed that keeping a too close track of the corona situation has definitely caused me some unnecessary anxiety and there is really no need to check it every day. I am also really happy that I managed to exercise more and read a lot more books than before.

So what now?

My plan is to do exactly what the Digital minimalism book originally suggested: reintroduce technologies back in a more intentional way. 

There are some things that I am already sure of: 

  • The social media and news apps will stay off my phone (except for Whatsapp)
  • Overall I am planning to use social media and read news significantly less in the future – with more dedicated, tight slots on the computer
    • Facebook I really only need for a few groups like my local neighbourhood parents’ flea market group and Messenger occasionally – I can bookmark those and skip the feed altogether
    • On Linkedin I am most interested in job updates and the PMs – and I get email notifications of both, so don’t have to go there proactively
    • Insta – my biggest earlier addiction – is a lot less addictive on the computer and again I will try to keep focusing on communicating with people in a more dialogue way through Whatsapp. If I need to post something, I will download the app and then delete it again afterwards.
  • I will definitely try to stick to the new good habit of more exercise and reading books in the evening after the kids are in bed

What I am still pondering about:

  • What to do with TV / streaming: I really do enjoy good tv shows and (American) reality tv shows are my favorite guilty pleasure so I don’t want to quit them fully. I still need to think and test different alternatives to figure out what would be a good balanced solution here.
  • I am thinking about whether I would like to order a newspaper on the weekends or a weekly/monthly news magazine in paper version to keep up-to-date in a less digital format
  • I also still need to test the right boundaries for private computer usage now that I start working full-time again and will spend my days on my work computer – there are a lot of things that are easy and smart to take care of on the computer but you can also very easily get derailed and end up spending a bit too much time on it.

So all in all, I am very happy with how the experiment turned out and will continue to test and iterate my new ways of using and NOT using technology more intentionally. If one of you also got inspired to do the digital minimalism experiment, I would love to hear about your experiences! 🙂