Digital Minimalism

    Sunday Quote

    Sunday Quote: re: the famous marshmallow experiment. Social sciences are finding over and over that people don’t succeed based on “best willpower” but on how they align their habits, environment, and focus with their goals.

    “Life Tip: when deciding whether to keep something, imagine it as a human friend.” from SMBC

    As I read this post about “Calm Technology”, an annoying subscribe popup happened right as I got to the “annoying notifications” spot on the chart. There’s also an obnoxious banner running through the whole article. Unacceptable. Change has to start with oneself.

    I had some folks ask for more details about my Digital Declutter experiment. That podcast episode is now up for subscribers of Resilient. #resilient

    Confronted with the reality of a monitored world, people make the rational decision to make the best of it. That is not consent.

    Another great essay from Maciej #resilient

    Today’s quote:

    People don’t succumb to screens because they’re lazy, but instead because billions of dollars have been inveted to make this outcome inevitable.

    🔗 Links for Resilience #2. Reading for security, society, sustainability, and self.

    My latest Resilient newsletter is out: Links for Resilience, where I share articles, quotes, and comments about security, society, and self.

    “countering consumerism must start from more robust secular (or religious) theodicy: the building of meaning structures, communities of meaning, that lie outside the realm of the market; and that offer credible answers to the deep foundational questions that continue to haunt us”

    From Escaping the Iron Cage of Consumerism

    Digital Declutter: the Plan

    If you read my review of Digital Minimalism, you’re aware of the Digital Declutter process. If not, head over to read it and then come back here.

    (Note: I did a podcast on my experiment from this book, over at Resilient)


    • To better understand what technologies and practices are worthwhile and valuable for me.
    • To focus more on high-value activities
    • To spend more time reflecting, thinking, and praying.
    • To spend more time reading, creating, repairing.
    • To spend more time in nature.
    • To reset my habits and routines.
    • To help fight the attention economy and the harmful effects it has for discourse, complex thought, and mental health.


    I am avoiding any unnecessary technologies, and using these questions to help me consider whether a technology is truly critical:

    • Is this absolutely necessary?
    • Could this wait?
    • Does this align with my highest values? (Mutuality, Learning, Resilience)
    • Can I mitigate the harmful effects?
    • Is there another way to accomplish this, even if it would be inconvenient?

    I am blocking off time twice a day to check email (once in the morning and once in the afternoon), and letting it buffer in between.

    I have eliminated most applications from my phone and blocked social & news sites in my browsers. The only alerts I get from my phone will be for direct people connections (texting, work chat, phone calls, video calls, etc.) or travel (rides, flights, directions, etc.), and my phone will be in “Do Not Disturb” except for core work hours (7-6). My DND is set to allow calls from numbers that are in my contacts.

    I will do all my (professional and personal) work from the computer and not my phone.

    I will not play video games, read ebooks, or play music & podcasts.

    I will do my shopping in stores and I will use the library.

    I am establishing operating procedures for my chosen special cases:

    • I can listen to audiobooks, but only with my family
    • On the weekend, I can watch a movie or couple episodes, but only with family or friends
    • I have direct links to Facebook Group/Event pages that I need to check periodically, and will check those once a week


    I’m beginning tonight, with the start of our Ash Wednesday service and the beginning of Lent.

    I’m ending on Easter Sunday (April 21st on this calendar) and the end of Lent.

    I am holding “conversation office hours” every day between 4:30 and 5:30 Eastern. You can call me any day during those times.

    You can follow along here: #DigitalMinimalism

    In preparation for my Digital Declutter during lent, I’m paring down the number of people I directly follow on social media to under Dunbar’s Number. This is going to be tough! #DigitalMinimalism

    Accurate: Life Online

    Digital Minimalism: Reference and Review

    Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    (Note: I wrote about my own experience with Digital Declutter here.)


    You’ve probably already heard: billions of dollars are spent on psychology and technology to claim as much of your attention as possible, to sell as much advertisement possible. The addictiveness of sites, apps, and phones is not an accident, but rather a result carefully engineered to be just so.

    In addition, “darker emotions attract more eyeballs than positive and constructive thoughts”, so we are pushed towards outrage, anxiety, and despair.

    Various attempts have been made to lessen the negative side effects and addictive properties of modern attention-economy technologies, but they’ve largely been unsustainable.

    What to do? Newport Recommends Digital Minimalism.


    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 the things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.

    Digital Minimalism includes avoiding “low-value activities that can clutter up [our] time and attention and end up hurting more than they help.” It also means asking ourselves “is this the best way to use technology to support this value?” The law of diminishing returns also applies, here.

    The Principles

    1. Clutter is costly
    2. Optimization is important
    3. Intentionality is satisfying

    Summary quote from this section:

    The sugar high of convenience is fleeting and the sting of missing out dulls rapidly, but the meaningful glow that comes from taking charge of what claims your time and attention is something that persists.

    Digital Declutter Program

    Newport recommends an intentional process to reassess your needs and values.

    Put aside a thirty-day period during which you will take a break from optional technologies in your life. During this thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you find satisfying and meaningful. At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies into your life, starting from a blank slate. For each technology you reintroduce, determine what value it serves in your life and how specifically you will use it so as to maximize this value.

    Taking the Break:

    Evaluating “optional” can be grey, but Newport gives this guideline:

    consider the technology optional unless its temporary removal would harm or significantly disrupt the daily operation of your professional or personal life.

    Newport also warns us to not confuse “convenient” with “critical”, when analyzing our needs during this period.

    Two methods to “take a break” are bans and operating procedures. A ban is simply not using that site, tech, app, etc. during the period. Operating procedures entail using it under certain rules. For example, many test participants in the program moved many tasks to their laptop/desktop that they had often completed on their phones, or checked certain apps/sites only once a week, or during a certain window, or in a certain place.

    In summary:

    In the end, you’re left with a list of banned technologies along with relevant operating procedures. Write this down and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day.

    Reintroducing Technologies

    To be reintroduced, a technology must:

    1. Serve something you deeply value
    2. Be the best way to use technology to serve this value
    3. Have a role in your life that is constrained with a standard operating procedure that specifies how you use it

    For the last item, this means asking “How am I going to use this technology…to maximize its value and minimize its harms?”


    One of the side effects of the engineered attention economy is that we’ve become accustomed to distract ourselves at the slightest moment of boredom or uncomfortable introspection. In addition, cutting out mindless swiping and browsing will introduce a lot of free time. If we don’t have a plan to proactively use our freed time, our Digital Minimalism practice is likely to fail.

    Thus, Newport introduces some possible practices to help us positively spend some time with our own thoughts, reclaim our free time as quality leisure, and further join the “Attention Resistance.”

    During your tech break and again in your reintroduction, see which of these would be good to include in your habits.

    Practice Area: Spend Time Alone

    One of the challenges of the attention economy is that we are frequently stuck in:

    Solitude Deprivation: A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds

    Time with our own thoughts is important, in short, for mindfulness. It’s important for the ability to consider problems, to examine & regulate emotions, reflect on values, and more.

    Newport refers to the mounting evidence regarding how the attention-economy is drastically driving up anxiety levels. As I mentioned at the beginning, we know our negative emotions are targeted for reaction, but on top of that we are also repeatedly presented with “curated” versions of others’ selves, and finally, the systems are designed for us to continually seek the repeated micro-approvals of others. The attention economy is engineered in a way that drives anxiety.

    Thus, the following practices help us have time without input from “other minds”, to help restore some control, attention, and mindfulness to our lives.

    Through these practices, Newport recommends:

    Conversation Centric Communication: Conversation is the only form of interaction that in some sense counts toward maintaining a relationship….Anything textual or non-interactive—basically, all social media, email, text, and instant messaging—doesn’t count as conversation and should instead be categorized as mere connection. In this philosophy, connection is downgraded to a logistical role. This form of interaction now has two goals: to help set up and arrange conversation, or to efficiently transfer practical information…. Connection is no longer an alternative to conversation; it’s instead its supporter.

    On to the practices:

    Practice: Leave Your Phone at Home

    It may feel impossible, but this is a very recent feeling. If you’re concerned about emergencies, consider leaving it off, or in the glovebox of your car, for example. (Again, this is implementing operating procedures.)

    Practice: Take Long Walks

    By yourself. Without your phone.

    Practice: Write Letters to Yourself

    AKA write in notebooks. Take notes, journal, brainstorm, plan.

    Practice: Don’t Click “Like”

    “No reacts plz”, we might say. This goes back to the micro-approvals and anxiety I mentioned above, as they drive the slot-machine behavior of social media sites. If you must react, share a comment. Or your own writing. Or even better, have a conversation with the person. “Adopt the baseline rule that you’ll no longer use social media as a tool for low-quality relationship nudges.”

    Practice: Consolidate Texting

    Keep your phone in Do Not Disturb and only check according to an operating procedure. Setup your DND to allow calls through from critical contacts.

    Practice: Hold Conversation Office Hours

    Pick a time when you are open for free conversation. Maybe it’s your commute. Maybe it’s literally open office hours. Maybe it’s a recurring walk. Whatever it is, offer this time as an opportunity for conversations.

    Practice Area: Reclaim Leisure

    All this freed time can lead to existential anxiety or produce negative behaviors (mindless consumption, alcohol/drug abuse, etc.) to fill the void. Newport claims giving more thought, attention, and effort to our leisure will make it more fulfilling and restorative, and help us keep on the Digital Minimalism path.

    Here are the three principles, then, of leisure:

    1. Prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption
    2. Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world
    3. Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions

    “The value of the pursuit is often proportional to the energy invested.”

    Practice: Fix Or Build Something Every Week

    Per principle #2, this should be analog. Newport recommends trying to learn and apply a skill each week over Digital Declutter period.

    Practice: Schedule Your Low-Quality Leisure

    Per your operating procedures, you should decide when, how much, how, etc. For example, maybe you only stream TV with family and friends, and only for X hours on the weekends. Maybe you only check in on Facebook events, groups, and family pictures for an hour on the weekends. In Newport’s findings, “the vast majority of regular social media users can receive the vast majority of the value these services provide their life in as little as twenty to forty minutes of use per week”, as opposed to the 3+ hours that the average person spends daily on their smartphones.

    Practice: Join Something

    Join a club, meetup, organization, etc. Or start your own!

    Practice: Follow Leisure Plans

    This may sound backwards, but actually planning your leisure may give you more opportunities to do it, by prioritizing it in your schedule.

    Newport recommends a seasonal plan and weekly planning.

    A good seasonal plan contains two different types of items: objectives and habits that you intend to honor in the upcoming season. The objectives describe specific goals you hope to accomplish, with accompanying strategies for how you will accomplish them. The habits describe behavior rules you hope to stick with throughout the season.

    For each of the objectives in the seasonal plan, figure out what actions you can do during the week to make progress on these objectives, and then, crucially, schedule exactly when you’ll do these things.

    Practice Area: Join the Attention Resistance

    At this point in history, “extracting eyeball minutes, the key resource for companies like Google and Facebook, has become significantly more lucrative than extracting oil.”

    Practice: Delete Social media from Your Phone

    Once you have your operating procedures around use, you probably don’t need it there, anyway.

    Practice: Turn Your Devices Into Single-Purpose Computers

    This is about focus and not multi-tasking. Of course computers are general purpose machines, but “the power of a general-purpose computer is in the total number of things it enables the user to do, not the total number of things it enables the user to do simultaneously.”

    Practice: Use Social Media Like a Professional

    People who work with Social Media for their job typically have operating procedures to be effective.

    Have a careful plan for how you use the different platforms, with the goal of “maximizing good information and cutting out the waste.”

    For example, fix the signal-to-noise ratio by being careful about what and who you follow.

    Practice: Embrace Slow Media

    Slow Media or Slow News is like the Slow Food or Slow Church movement. Embrace the patient, high-quality, well-considered sources and conversations.

    Avoid junk and reactivity. Avoid “Breaking News”, which is almost always low-quality, error-prone, and often emotionally manipulative.

    Seek opposing viewpoints. Follow feeds from good writers. Save/bunch stories to read once a week.

    Practice: Dumb Down Your Smartphone

    Consider a dumbphone, no phone, or something like the Light Phone or the Punkt Phone.


    I liked this book and look forward to implementing my break and examination during Lent. Want to discuss the book? Message me and let’s have a conversation!


    First change I’m making due to Digital Minimalism: going through my many Slack instances this morning and leaving all the channels that don’t have needed info for me, and are instead just chatty rooms. #DigitalMinimalism

    “Solitude Deprivation: A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.”

    from Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World


    Introducing Blog Categories and Specific Feeds!

    Good news! Per this announcement, now supports categories, and therefore, so does this blog.

    Categories allow you to view or subscribe to a selection of blog posts related to a certain theme. My collections could evolve over time, but you can always see the live list at the top of my archive page. I created the following breakdown, which most of my posts will fit into:

    • Anabaptism - Anabatism, Mennonites, and faith from those perspectives (RSS Feed)
    • Digital Minimalism - intentionality around use of tech (RSS Feed)
    • Games - a broad category for card games, board games, role-playing games, party games, live action games, and video games (RSS Feed)
    • Humor - satire, comics, etc. (RSS feed)
    • Ideas - food for thought, strategy, politics, philosophy, theology, psychology, etc. (RSS feed)
    • Resilience - information/cybersecurity, sustainability, emotional & psychological resilience, posts from my Newsletter/Podcast (RSS feed)
    • Review - year-in-review, looks back, but also comments on books, tools, video, music, events, etc. (RSS feed)
    • Soccer - maybe I should just make this “sports”, but I really only share about Soccer (core teams: Indy Eleven, US Women’s & Mens’s national teams, Chelsea FC) (RSS feed)

    Questions? Comments?

    This morning’s reflection from #BuJo. What does this mean in the #AttentionEconomy ?

    The price of anythjng is the amount of life you exchange for it -Thoreau


    Food for Thought: 2018-03-12

    I waited too long to publish this last batch, so the list is long. Hope you find some of these interesting! Recommend your own in the comments:

    This is a hilarious and informative philosophical response about “puzzles for libertarians". (I’m probably one of the few people who reads both Current Affairs and Slate Star Codex.) 

    I’ve shared quite a bit about the Attention Economy. Richard Beck, here, brings that conversation out of the realm of advertising, software, etc. and into social interactions.

    Startup Bros are buying up other countries because they’re realizing they are accelerating the demise of their own.

    From Current Affairs, The Nice Cop, an article by someone who was friends with the killer of Philando Castile.

    "It is ridiculous to think that you can arm your police with a military-grade arsenal, tell them that everyone they see is a potential threat, and not have bloodshed in the streets….It may be a necessary evil to have some units of armed police, but they should be few, small, and lightly-armed with pistols, shotguns, and rifles….In the event that unarmed police had to confront armed suspects, they would do what cops already do: call for backup.”

    You’ve heard about the various folks repenting for what they’ve done to attention with tech. Some of them are banding together at Humane Tech to make things better. Here is their first resource page. Lots of good advice on there.

    I like these “25 Principles of Adult Behavior

    "We’re ultimately after justice, not fairness. And by stopping with fairness, we are shortchanging the people most at risk.” from The Problem with Building a “Fair” System

    "It’s not beneficial to us to turn content recommendations over to an algorithm, especially one that’s been optimized for garbage.” From Facebook is Killing Comedy

    Related: YouTube: the Great Radicalizer: “It seems as if you are never ‘hard core’ enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes.”

    “Get out of jail free” cards. Remember, even “benevolent” discrimination in execution of the law leads to further inequalities.

    "Creating a social stigma around people who refused to cede the street to cars was a means for car companies to redirect blame back onto victims and strengthen motorists’ claim to the right-of-way.” On the Creeping Criminalization of Walking

    ’When you create a Human+AI team, the hard part isn’t the “AI”. It isn’t even the “Human”. It’s the “+”.’  Humans are good at asking questions. AI are good at answering them. This “centaur” pairing is effective.

    We all know hiring for security expertise is difficult. Here’s a heatmap including supply/demand ratios by state. 

    Where countries would be in Pangea.

    Cool infographic about the naming of tea in different languages.

    Another cool infographic about happiness.

    This idea of “Near Enemies” is a very useful concept.

    "Smaller crowds outperform larger crowds and individuals in realistic task conditions.” Anybody have a copy of this article?

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