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Digital Minimalism 数字极简主义

1-Page Summary 1 页摘要

Many of us are glued to our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, slavishly checking Facebook updates, refreshing email, and scanning Twitter. Although most people adopted these technologies for their benefits, they’ve become so tethered to them that they’ve lost control of how they spend their time and attention. People feel overpowered and exhausted by the multitude of digital tools at their fingertips, including devices like smartphones and tablets, websites, addictive apps, and social media platforms. Meanwhile, tech companies continue to invest major resources into making their products and services addictive so that you’ll continue scrolling and tapping.
我们中的许多人都被智能手机、平板电脑和笔记本电脑所吸引,一味地查看 Facebook 更新、刷新电子邮件和扫描 Twitter。尽管大多数人采用这些技术是为了享受其带来的好处,但他们已经被这些技术束缚住了,以至于无法控制自己的时间和注意力。智能手机和平板电脑等设备、网站、令人上瘾的应用程序和社交媒体平台等触手可及的数字工具让人们感到力不从心、疲惫不堪。与此同时,科技公司继续投入大量资源,让他们的产品和服务让人上瘾,从而让你继续滚动和点击。

This book explains how practicing digital minimalism can loosen technology’s grip on your attention. Digital minimalism is a philosophy that aims to maximize the benefits of technology and avoid the pitfalls by identifying your values and determining how to use technology to support them. First, we’ll discuss the principles of digital minimalism and explain why it’s an effective way to improve your digital (and real-world) life. Then, we’ll review practical strategies for implementing digital minimalism.

Before we talk about how to break our technology obsession, let’s explore what makes it so addictive in the first place.

Digital Devices Are Engineered to Be Addictive

If you ask people how much time is a reasonable amount to spend on these activities, their answer would probably be less than the amount of time they actually spend. Why are people spending more time and energy on devices than they think they should? The answer: Tech companies carefully engineer their products to keep your attention for as long as possible, because the longer your eyeballs are glued to the screen—where advertisements are placed strategically among your friend’s cat videos—the higher their revenues. This is the attention economy.

In order to drive profits, digital tools are specifically designed to promote addiction in order to support the attention economy. Of the various features that encourage technology addiction, we’ll explore two:

  1. Intermittent positive reinforcement means that, when you get unpredictable rewards for your behavior, you’re more driven to continue that behavior than if the rewards were consistent. On social media, the “Like” button is one form of intermittent reward: When you post a photo on Facebook, you may get a swarm of likes and comments, or you may get none.
    间歇性正强化意味着,当你的行为获得不可预测的奖励时,你会比持续获得奖励更有动力继续这种行为。在社交媒体上,"赞 "按钮就是间歇性奖励的一种形式:当你在 Facebook 上发布一张照片时,你可能会得到一窝蜂的赞和评论,也可能一个赞和评论都没有。
  2. The drive for social approval means that humans have an evolutionary impulse to seek and reciprocate social approval. On social media, likes and comments convey social approval. Your ancient social urges push you to compulsively check your notifications to find out whether your peers have validated you with the thumbs-up button—and, when you don’t get that feedback, the feeling of distress and rejection urges you to keep checking your notifications.
    社会认可的驱动力意味着人类在进化过程中有一种寻求和回报社会认可的冲动。在社交媒体上,"赞 "和 "评论 "传递着社会认可。自古以来的社交冲动会促使你强迫性地查看通知,以了解你的同龄人是否通过竖起大拇指的按钮来认可你,而当你没有得到这种反馈时,苦恼和被拒绝的感觉又会促使你继续查看通知。

Digital overuse causes a number of negative effects, but, above all, technologies’ addictive designs rob you of your autonomy to decide how and how much you use your digital tools. Digital minimalism can help you reclaim the power to decide how you allocate your time and attention—because if you don’t feel that you have control over your digital habits, you become a victim of their negative consequences. Since your tech addiction has been engineered, you have to be diligent and deliberate about breaking that addiction and creating new habits.

Digital Minimalism Hinges on a Philosophy of Tech Use

A growing number of people are preaching the benefits of pulling back from the total technology immersion that has become the default for many. Those who promote reducing technology use typically advise simple hacks like turning off notifications. However, instead of hacks, most people need a complete overhaul—and that starts with developing a philosophy of technology use. Digital minimalism is one such philosophy, which requires that you identify what values and activities are priorities in your life, determine which digital tools promote those priorities, and implement constraints for using these tools to maximize their benefits and minimize their harm and distraction.
越来越多的人在宣扬从完全的技术沉浸中解脱出来的好处,这已成为许多人的默认习惯。那些提倡减少技术使用的人通常会建议一些简单的方法,比如关闭通知。然而,大多数人需要的不是 "黑客",而是彻底的改变--这首先要从培养技术使用理念开始。数字极简主义就是这样一种理念,它要求你明确哪些价值观和活动是你生活中的优先事项,确定哪些数字工具可以促进这些优先事项,并对这些工具的使用实施限制,以最大限度地发挥它们的益处,最大限度地减少它们的危害和干扰。

Let’s explore the three main principles of digital minimalism:

  1. Eliminate clutter. Digital minimalists assess technology with cost-benefit analyses, which involves asking yourself whether a technology adds value to your life beyond minor convenience, and whether the technology is the best way to support your values. In other words, Facebook may be an easy way to keep up with family and friends, but is it the best way? You may be better off calling or visiting them. If you assess every digital tool with these criteria, you’ll likely end up reducing or eliminating your need for these devices.
    消除杂乱。数字极简主义者通过成本效益分析来评估技术,这包括问自己,一项技术除了给你的生活带来些许便利外,是否还能为你的生活增添价值,以及这项技术是否是支持你价值观的最佳方式。换句话说,Facebook 可能是一种与家人和朋友保持联系的简单方式,但它是最好的方式吗?打电话或拜访他们可能会更好。如果你用这些标准来评估每一种数字工具,你最终很可能会减少或消除对这些设备的需求。
  2. Optimize your technology use. Once you’ve pared down your apps and devices, decide how to get the most benefits with the fewest distractions. Instead of looking at an app or device as a single tool, think about it as a collection of features, such as direct messaging and marketing platforms. With this view, you can optimize your digital use based purely on the tools they provide, and it’ll be easier to bypass the rest of the noise.
  3. Take control and feel empowered. One of the most harmful effects of technology addiction is that users feel that they don’t have control over their own time and attention. But you can avoid all of the issues that come with technology overuse if you can simply control your digital habits, and reclaiming that control is empowering.

Start Your Tech Transformation With a 30-Day Digital Declutter
通过 30 天数字清理开始技术转型

The most effective way to adopt digital minimalism is to start with a digital declutter, which is a 30-day detox from all non-essential technology. The digital declutter allows time for you to break your addictive habits, engage with more meaningful activities, and get a clean slate from which you can set the parameters for your long-term digital use.
采用数字极简主义的最有效方法是从数字净化开始,即对所有非必要技术进行为期 30 天的排毒。数码产品清理让你有时间改掉上瘾的习惯,参与更有意义的活动,并获得一片净土,从而为你的长期数码产品使用设定参数。

Let’s discuss the three steps to the declutter process:

  1. Outline the rules for your declutter. The digital declutter involves banning all optional technologies, so you must first define what is an optional technology. “Technology” includes websites, apps, and other digital tools that you access through your phone or computer. “Optional” technology is something that you can ignore for a month without causing harm to your personal or professional life. Be careful to distinguish between technologies that are essential and those that are merely convenient.
    列出整理规则。数字整理涉及禁止所有可选技术,因此你必须首先定义什么是可选技术。"技术 "包括通过手机或电脑访问的网站、应用程序和其他数字工具。"可选 "技术是指你可以在一个月内忽略而不会对你的个人或职业生活造成损害的技术。要注意区分哪些技术是必要的,哪些技术只是为了方便。
  2. Declutter for 30 days. Now that you’ve set the rules, the next step is to follow them for one month. At first, it will be hard to break your tech use habits, but those reflexes typically fade after a week or two. The declutter enables you to reset your habits and your mindset, so that your digital addictions don’t cloud your judgment and make certain technologies seem more essential than they are. After 30 days of declutter, when it’s time to reintroduce select technologies back into your life, you’ll be better able to make those decisions. Additionally, the digital declutter gives you time to reconnect with your interests and passions by revisiting old activities and trying new ones.
    整理 30 天。既然你已经制定了规则,下一步就是要遵守一个月。一开始,你很难改掉使用科技产品的习惯,但这些习惯通常会在一两周后逐渐消失。通过整理,你可以重置自己的习惯和心态,这样你就不会因为沉迷于数字技术而影响判断,也不会让某些技术看起来比实际更重要。经过 30 天的整理,当你需要将某些技术重新引入你的生活时,你就能更好地做出决定。此外,数码产品的整理还能让你有时间通过重温旧的活动和尝试新的活动,重新与自己的兴趣和爱好建立联系。
  3. Reintroduce select technology. After the 30 days, choose which technologies to reintroduce into your life, and decide how to use them. For each technology, ask yourself three questions: First, does the technology directly support a value that’s important to you? Second, does this technology offer the best way to support that value? Third, how will you use the technology so that you’re only using the feature that supports that value? Lay out the rules for when or how often you use the digital tool, how you use it, and how to minimize distractions.
    重新引入精选技术。30 天后,选择哪些技术重新引入你的生活,并决定如何使用它们。对于每项技术,问自己三个问题:第一,这项技术是否直接支持对你很重要的价值观?第二,这项技术是否提供了支持该价值的最佳方式?第三,你将如何使用该技术,以便只使用支持该价值的功能?为你使用数字工具的时间或频率、使用方式以及如何尽量减少分心制定规则。

Reclaim Time for Yourself

When you start to realize all the time you could gain by changing your digital habits, you’ll want to start filling it with something else. But it’s important that you spend some of that time doing nothing. Because digital tools are ubiquitous and addictive, they have robbed us of invaluable solitude. This may seem like a small loss, but even brief moments of solitude are critical for your mental and emotional well-being.

It’s easy to overlook the value of solitude, because our culture places a high value on connectivity. While close personal relationships are a critical source of happiness, time with close friends and family must still be balanced with time spent alone with your thoughts. This means having a break from outside input from other people, TV, podcasts, and anything on your phone or computer. Solitude is essential in order to:

  • Come up with new ideas. When you have the space to think, without any external input, you’ll be better able to work through difficult problems and come up with more creative ideas. This may also be why many writers and other famous figures have been prolific during periods of solitude.
  • Develop a better understanding of yourself. Spending time alone with your thoughts gives you the opportunity for valuable self-reflection. As you get to know yourself better, you’ll become better at regulating your emotions.
  • Support strong intimate relationships with others. Although this seems paradoxical, having time alone makes you more appreciative of the time you spend with others.

Digital tools today are more ubiquitous than any of their technological predecessors. Whereas previous technologies could interrupt solitude intermittently, the iPod and iPhone were the first innovations that could continuously distract people from their thoughts, even in brief moments and inconvenient locations. As a result, people now face the real threat of solitude deprivation, meaning that they have virtually no time with their own thoughts. Solitude deprivation impedes your ability to think creatively, deliberate on problems, get to know yourself, and foster strong relationships—in other words, it brings down your quality of life.

Strategies for Reclaiming Solitude

It’s difficult to disconnect in a hyper-connected world, but there are some simple strategies you can use to get a little solitude.

  1. Get away from your phone for a while. If you go out to a movie or meet a friend for dinner, leave your phone at home or in the car. If that feels too extreme, ask your friend to put your phone in her pocket or purse—whatever you can do to make the phone less accessible to you. Try to regularly get some time away from your phone.
  2. Take long, quiet walks. Try to make time for leisurely walks that give you the opportunity for quiet reflection. Resist the urge to talk on the phone or listen to a podcast—just be with your thoughts.
  3. Write down your thoughts. Writing is a form of productive solitude, and writing a journal entry or a letter to yourself is a valuable way to process your thoughts. You don’t necessarily need to write daily—simply use writing as an outlet to work through difficult problems and big emotions.

Reclaim Your Relationships

Just as important as humans’ need for solitude is their need for meaningful social interaction. The human brain evolved to be extremely sophisticated in navigating social interactions because relationships have always been vital to humans’ health and survival. When you communicate with people face-to-face, on the phone, or over a video call—any means that’s not text-based—it stretches your mental muscles for social connection, such as reading body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. However, digital communication has replaced much of people’s face-to-face and phone conversations, but texts, comments, and emails fail to feed people’s deep psychological social needs.

Rich, face-to-face communication draws on humans’ evolutionary social skills and is a meaningful experience because:

  • It requires you to practice listening and interpreting nonverbal communication.
  • It allows you to feel heard and understood.
  • It helps you to develop empathy.

Despite the benefits of non-text interaction, people gravitate toward digital communication because—in addition to being wired for social connection—humans evolved to seek out the most efficient ways of doing things, despite the trade-offs. This leads to behaviors such as compulsively checking your phone even while carrying on a conversation with the person sitting in front of you, spending all your time on digital devices and leaving none for richer forms of interaction, and mistakenly assuming that digital communication is a substitute for face-to-face conversation. But, when you replace most of your conversations with digital, text-based communication, you eventually lose your social skills and become unable to satisfy your deep-seated social needs. For example, some adolescents have a hard time being empathetic because they haven’t had enough practice reading facial expressions to interpret what other people are feeling.

In order to maintain your communication skills and fulfill your social needs, you must not only incorporate more conversation into your life, but also change the way you use digital communication tools. Merely supplementing your digital connections with real-life conversations won’t create the fundamental shift you need for significant, sustained changes—rather, harness digital tools and use them to promote meaningful interactions, rather than replace them.

To shift the balance between your connections and your conversations, use digital (text-based) communication for only two purposes:

  1. Planning and coordinating conversations
  2. Sharing simple logistical information

When you adopt these practices, the number of people you actively communicate with will almost certainly shrink, because you won’t have enough time to keep up meaningful communication with everyone you follow on social media. You might initially feel lonely as you watch your social circle appear to shrink, but you’ll soon notice that the relationships that survive this shift will become stronger. Instead of maintaining constant connection with a large network of weak ties and acquaintances, you’ll enjoy meaningful communication with a smaller group of close friends.

Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationships

Shifting the way you think about and use your digital communication tools can be difficult, especially when those tools are already an established part of your relationships. Here are some strategies that can help you make the transition:

  1. Stop clicking “like” and leaving social media comments. These are shallow forms of interaction that don’t feed your need for social connection, and they create the illusion that you’re communicating. As a result, these actions actually undermine your effort to strengthen your relationships through meaningful interactions.
  2. Text only during certain times and for specific purposes. Use text messages only to exchange logistical information, such as setting up a time for a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting. Additionally, keep your phone on Do Not Disturb mode so that you don’t receive text notifications, and then designate times when you’ll check and respond to text messages. If you need to, adjust your phone settings to allow calls to come through from certain people.
  3. Designate days and times for conversations. Just like college professors hold office hours, during which students can drop by their office to discuss assignments and issues, set aside days and times to have conversation office hours. When people try to instigate a conversation via text or email, simply tell them you’d love to continue the discussion, and that they can call or meet you during your conversation office hours. This strategy prevents anyone from hesitating to call you for fear of interrupting something, and it blocks out time for you to invest in meaningful conversation.

Reclaim Your Leisure Time

In order to successfully reduce your digital habits, you need to first identify the meaningful leisure activities that will take their place. While scrolling and tapping on your devices may feel like a pleasant way to decompress, they are low-quality leisure activities—they don’t contribute much value to your life and they don’t energize you. When you cut down on your digital use and deliberately fill that time with meaningful activities, the high-quality leisure will leave you feeling more energized and fulfilled than your digital habits.

As you think of the ways you could fill your newfound free time, consider the following three lessons about what defines high-quality leisure activities.

  1. Demanding activities are more rewarding than passive ones. Dedicating your leisure time to demanding activities actually energizes you more than idly passing the time. When you learn a new skill or finish a task, it leaves you feeling uniquely proud and accomplished. The more energy you invest in your leisure, the more value you’ll gain.
  2. Humans get satisfaction and self-worth from making things with their hands. High-quality leisure includes craft—which entails using a skill to practice or create something. In other words, by this definition, crafts encompass building a DIY headboard as well as practicing a song on the guitar.
  3. In-person, structured social activities are rejuvenating. Certain leisure activities—like competitive games and sports—create an environment for supercharged socializing, where the people involved can interact more intensely than they would in normal conversations. For example, it would be inappropriate to yell encouraging words and chest bump at a cocktail party, but these displays are encouraged in a kickball game with friends. Supercharged socializing is an energizing and rewarding way to spend your leisure time.

In the spirit of digital minimalism, there is a growing movement of people using technology to support leisure activities instead of relying on technology to be the activity. First, you can go online to find communities of people who share your interests so that you can connect with them in person. Second, if you’re picking up a new skill or hobby, you can find detailed instructions, how-to videos, and sources for obscure materials and tools.

Strategies for Upgrading Your Leisure

From woodworking to volunteering, you have a wide array of high-quality leisure options to fill your time. Consider these strategies to get the most out of your downtime:

  1. Build or fix something new each week. For six weeks, make a commitment that each week, you will learn a new skill and then use that skill to fix, create, or learn something new. These projects could include changing the oil in your car, building a headboard, or learning a new technique on an instrument. Start with relatively easy skills and projects. Each success will boost your confidence and motivation to continue learning and taking on increasingly challenging projects.
  2. Schedule time for low-quality leisure. Decide in advance how much time you’ll spend on low-quality leisure activities, such as browsing social media or watching Netflix. This strategy has two benefits: First, creating time limits for your low-quality leisure prevents those activities from stealing time away from high-quality leisure. Second, this allows you to continue using your digital devices, while still protecting your commitment to incorporate more high-quality activities.
  3. Join a group. Enjoy the benefits of regular, structured social interactions by joining a church group, volunteer organization, fitness club, or some other association—whether the unifying mission is serious or playful. Connecting with other people in pursuit of a common goal is uniquely rewarding.
  4. Be strategic about your leisure time. Create seasonal and weekly leisure plans, so that when you have free time, you already know how you want to spend it. For your seasonal plan, identify goals you want to reach and habits you want to maintain during the coming season (this can be done every quarter, semester, or other interval). For example, your objective may be to learn how to play your favorite Beatles songs on the guitar, and your habit might be reading every night. For your weekly leisure plan, start each week by reviewing your seasonal plan as well as your calendar for the upcoming week. Schedule time to work on each of your seasonal objectives. Additionally, review your habits—even if you don’t schedule time for your habits, revisiting them keeps them front-of-mind so that you can remember to follow through with them as the week goes on.

Reclaim Your Attention

Since tech companies have a vested interest in keeping you addicted to your devices, reclaiming control of your attention requires strong conviction and thorough planning. The key to digital minimalism is to change how you view and use technology so that you use only the tools that benefit you, and forego the rest of the distractions. Here are some strategies to help you achieve this:

  1. Delete your social media apps. These apps are designed to be more addictive than the web versions, and they’re always with you when they’re on your smartphone, making it almost impossible to resist checking them when you have a few free moments. If you have to log onto a computer to access those platforms, it will naturally limit how often you use them, and you’ll be more selective about when and why you log on.
  2. Limit your smartphone’s capabilities. Block all distracting apps, websites, and functions on your digital devices, ideally by default or on a set schedule—for example, during work hours—and then unblock certain services when you need them. There are several digital tools that help you to create these blocks, such as Freedom and SelfControl. The goal is to turn your smartphone, tablet, or computer into a single-purpose device as much as possible.
  3. Use social media strategically. When it comes to being intentional about digital use, take a cue from social media professionals—they have to be smart about avoiding distractions, or they’d get nothing done. Consider strategies such as keeping a short friend list on Facebook, following a small number of accounts on Instagram and Twitter, and creating separate Twitter accounts for professional needs and personal interests.
  4. Transition to “slow media.” The Slow Media movement encourages people to shift their media consumption to high-quality sources over convenient, low-quality media. For example, if you used this approach for your news consumption, you would forego checking various social media and news sites throughout the day, and instead check a reliable source once or twice a day. You might also save longer articles that you come across throughout the week and spend a quiet Saturday morning reading them with a cup of coffee.
  5. Get a “dumb” phone. Trading your smartphone for a cell phone that can only make calls and send texts is the most effective action you can take in resisting tech addiction and overuse. As tablets and laptops become lighter and more portable, you can rely on those devices for internet access. Alternatively, if you need your smartphone for work or other logistical reasons, you can get a tethered dumb phone: When you want to have some time without your smartphone, activate your tethered phone to have texts and phone calls forwarded from your smartphone.

Digital minimalists aren’t anti-technology—rather, they want to be intentional about how they use technology in order to maximize its benefits. Digital minimalists are content to miss out on low-value digital experiences because they’ve chosen to invest only in high-value experiences, in both the virtual and real worlds. If you decide to adopt this philosophy, you have to put in time and effort, and you’ll probably falter along the way, but you’ll be on the path to a higher quality of life.

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