Digital Minimalism (+ my Facebook story)

I’ve just finished reading Cal Newport’s new book Digital Minimalism and I’ve really enjoyed it. I felt it more accessible than Deep Work (that I loved but found a bit boring in the beginning) and it provided me so much food for thought. It made me realize I’m on the right path (not quite there but I’m working on it) concerning digital minimalism.

Here is Cal Newport’s definition of Digital Minimalism:

A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.

For me, Facebook is where it all started. I joined it back in 2009, right after finishing high school, with one of those silly couple profiles where the name was something like Alice-Boyfriend’s Name (please, don’t judge). The main reason why I joined it was not just because I was missing my friends after starting University (no WhatsApp back then) but because I wanted to play Farmville. I managed to resist for the whole 2008/2009 school year, firmly stating that I didn’t care about Facebook when it first got popular here. But then I caved, only because of a digital farm to run, not because of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I’m quite proud of it to be honest, haha.

3-4 years in and Facebook quickly became the first source of anxiety and comparison trap for me. At that time, I was having some issues with my University career, going through a break-up and all I was doing was to keep scrolling my home page watching my friends’ accomplishments and amazing lives while I was struggling and feeling miserable.

In the meantime, joining Middle-earth News made me meet so many like-minded people and, since I didn’t want to share my private life with everyone, I created a second profile. I ran two different Facebook profiles (going against the platform guidelines) for almost a year, when I suddenly realized that I was spending all my time in my newest account interacting with fellow Tolkien fans rather than in my “official” profile, that, at that point, I occasionally visited only to end up comparing myself to my friends. Around 2013 or 2014, I decided to close for good my original “official” profile and just keep the second one to interact with my online friends.

During the last few years, though, I started using Facebook in a specific way:

  • I only check it from my laptop browser and I don’t have the app on my phone (I’ve never used Messenger to communicate).
  • I unfollowed everyone and every page/group so my home page is always empty and I don’t get distracted (this drives Facebook crazy and it constantly asks me to follow new stuff).
  • I use it pretty much like a Reddit alternative. I only engage in a couple of closed Groups and I occasionally manage the Middle-earth News page.

The way I use Facebook is similar to what a digital minimalist would do with social media, according to Cal Newport. However, I didn’t sit to plan my rules to use Facebook, it just happened over the years after going through a very bad season of my life. I know this is not for everyone, but when I hear people saying how much they hate Facebook and that they would quit it but can’t do it, I usually tell them there is another way.

What about friends and family? Well, I keep in touch with them via WhatsApp and if someone in my everyday life asks me if I use Facebook, I usually say I don’t, which to some extent is true. I occasionally receive friendship requests from people who know me in person but I’ve become very selective when it comes to accepting them and, if I do it, they never interact with me because I never share updates on my profile nor leave comments on their posts.

For Twitter, I have a similar approach. I don’t have the app on my phone, I only check it from my laptop browser or tablet. The Twitter app on my phone was incredibly addicting for me because it made me waste a lot of time compulsively scrolling the feed throughout the day. Instead, my tablet and laptop aren’t always with me.

Instagram is still a big issue for me, mostly because I interact a lot with my online friends via Direct Messages and, while I don’t post a photo every single day anymore, I’m still addicted to Stories. That’s the main reason why I started taking social media free weekends. However, I still have to find a way to use Instagram more mindfully since the browser version is very limited.

As you can see, I didn’t set specific rules to use social media like “you can check Twitter only 3 days a week at 6 PM” but still having some kind of barriers helps a lot for me. I almost treat them like a job and it can be useful if you’re concerned with your privacy like me. Before sharing anything online I usually step back and evaluate if the content is too personal, if I would be ashamed to see it reposted somewhere else (remember that even Instagram photos and Stories can be downloaded or shared on Pinterest these days), if it can be perceived as offensive, and so on.

I’m going to end this post with a quote from the book that I found very inspiring.

[…] approach social media as if you’re the director of emerging media for your own life. Have a careful plan for how you use the different platforms, with the goal of “maximizing good information and cutting out the waste.”

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17 thoughts on “Digital Minimalism (+ my Facebook story)

  1. Oh my gosh, this post is so uncanny! I just listened to Cal Newport’s interview on Art of Manliness. I deleted social media from my phone at the beginning of the year and announced I want to delete Facebook entirely at the end of February. After, listening to Newport’s interview, I think I might stay on for the couple groups I care most about. I was just thinking of deleting all my friends and “liked” pages – glad to hear it works!

    1. Yay! I’m so happy my post helped you. It doesn’t have to be all black and white, we can still use social media old school from a browser without stressing too much 🙂

  2. Same here. I cut my use a lot because I found out I was wasting so much time on KPOP twitter (trust me it’s addicting) and like you I have two facebook profiles (I rarely visit the main one) and the other is for my fandoms and drag queen memes and people I talk to.. I understood it was bad for me to be there all the time 🙂 I love your posts

    1. I don’t have two Facebook accounts anymore but I feel like it was a great way to let me understand what I actually wanted to do and consume on the platform. So glad you enjoy my posts!! 🙂

  3. I am trying, really hard, and failing, really hard, at minimising(?) my Twitter. I used to adore Twitter and I’ve made tons of friends through it (now I’m making them on Insta) but it has become a very toxic environment for me and not really because of my interactions. Everyone on Twitter seems to be so angry and, even though there are many things to be angry about in the world right now, sometimes I’m not sure why they are so angry. I also only check Twitter in my computer. I have the app in my phone but all the notifications are off and I no longer habitually check it (unlike Insta). Do you have any advice on how to ‘clean up’ your Twitter? Or would you say that your main issue with Twitter was only the infinite scrolling (rather than the content of that scrolling)?

    1. I know what you mean, Kathy!

      My advice to have a better Twitter experience is:
      – Unfollow any account you don’t like anymore (for those you can’t unfollow because they follow you back or you know IRL or whatever, just click the Mute option)
      – Use the List feature to group accounts you follow based on topic/friendship level/etc. (I have a list for close friends, one for Tolkien-themed accounts, etc.)
      – When you check Twitter from your laptop, use TweetDeck.com. It’s a free tool by Twitter made for professionals, but it’s nice because it allows you to have a column for each feed you need. This way you can have a feed for every list all open at the same time! (Here is a good tutorial, in case you need some help https://youtu.be/W2mKEDRIdbg)

      I hope it makes sense and that you’ll find it helpful! 🙂

  4. I started on Facebook around the same time (maybe 2008?) because our neighbor/”adopted daughter/big sister” went to college and that was the best way to communicate with her. I too had a Farmville farm that I loved. 🙂

    I still use Facebook a lot but I miss the old days when it was just people posting about their lives. Now it’s all political rants and memes. The personal part has disappeared. 😦

    1. Always nice to meet other Farmville fans! 😀

      Yeah, I think that people tend to share more personal photos on Instagram these days (when it isn’t part of their online business).

  5. I wish I can delete my FB account and just start over with a new one but I can’t because I am a member of some awesome groups. What I do is just delete people I don’t really know off my friend list. I’m also thinking of deleting the FB app on my phone and just access it on my laptop. We’ll see!

  6. Good job on controlling your Social Media usage. I’ve done the same in the past as Cal’s suggestions in the book. Not perfect yet, but I’d say I’m doing pretty good.

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