How to practice Digital minimalism

Continued from Part I: Hurtling towards a digital derailment.
What we’re actually doing is creating an entire generation of mini little addicts that are getting hardwired to believe that their sense of self worth and their sense of coping comes from a device and not from another human being. 
~ On device addiction in adolescents by Simon Sinek. 

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If you want a gist of this essay in one line, this is it: Don’t waste precious time skimming the Internet. But, if you’re available for an extended version of brainwashing, below is the essay in full length.

Parents, here’s a question. Would you willingly give your kids unlimited access to alcohol, cigarettes and let them gamble their time away? Why else are we plying them with digital devices when we and they don’t know how to deal with the affects of dopamine on our bodies. Every click, every coin and every like we earn is giving us a surge of dopamine, the feel good hormone, which in turn is making us into Digital Crack Addicts. We’re looking at flashy celebrity lifestyles through phones while not having a well rounded sense – their emotions, thoughts, surroundings or circumstances, of the real lives they are living.

The best and the worst part of Technology use is, we’re not accountable to anyone on how much and where we’re spending our time. If any of the horrors of digital derailment are to be believed, the modern human being is not shitting at the right time, is chronically sleep deprived and eating all times of the day, thanks to his digital addictions. 

According to neuroscientist Claire Gillian of Cambridge University, behaviors can stimulate the same areas of the brain that drugs like heroin and cocaine stimulate – and this includes many behaviors that take place online, such as playing video games, engaging in sex chats and gambling. In all of these circumstances, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain, which in turn sets off a feeling of intense pleasure. But this initial pleasure gradually decreases when the behavior is repeated. This causes people to make the addiction worse by spending more and more time online, in a futile attempt to recapture that first great dopamine high. 
~ From Irresistible by Adam Alter

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What Tech can’t do: 

If robots and animals had superior cognitive abilities than us humans, we would not be running the world today. Only humans have the power of imagination, intense curiosity, and can understand the cause and effect scenarios. Only we can contemplate deeply on the meaning of life and understand our ability that we can change our mind if we want to. 

  • Intelligent Information: Spending an insane amount of time consuming information doesn’t make us intelligent humans. Age old wisdom has given way to knowledge, and thanks to our Technology revolution, knowledge has given way to information. An overload of it, so much so that we are unable to make sense of all of it. We’re not getting a bigger picture or a holistic view of it.
  • No Life App: There’s no app that’s been designed to measure internal happiness and display it in a picture frame. Simply put, there’s no app on how to live life than actually living it, atleast not yet!
  • Social Skills: Tech skills don’t translate into people skills. Just because we’re connected to someone on all virtual platforms doesn’t mean we can hold a decent conversation with them face to face.
  • Fostering Relationships: Nothing, no amount of “online” connection can replace the value of fostering deep and meaningful relationships. It can amass you a huge network of people, many of whom you will never meet in this lifetime. In 2014, in a survey of how many close friends people had, the most common response was 2. That’s just sad, isn’t it?
  • Social Validation: Seek social validation in the real world impact you make. Stop pretending, start living. Geo tagging our locations while checking ourselves into virtual apps is part of our modern lives today. Can we all stop to wonder if anyone else cares about our whereabouts other than our mothers? And lets be honest, in most cases, she might also be busy on her phone and not really care.
  • Self Reliance: Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote one of the best essays on self reliance, that there’s no bigger asset in the world than ourselves. Yet, we want to be led, we seek outside what we already are within ourselves. We have become codependents of the same world where our ancestors hunted and lived off of it in full self sufficiency. We have now outsourced entertainment and pain management to technology and have become dependents on it to take care of us. 
  • Behavior Disorders: Just because we use technology all the time, it doesn’t mean we are masters of it. We haven’t fully understood the harmful affects of technology on our children. We haven’t taught them that its easy to call someone “Fat” on a screen than in person. Ask them to try this, they won’t regret the lesson. 
  • Failing Big: Real world play doesn’t incentivize stupidity and mishaps like how virtual games like Candy Crush and Farmville do. When we fail big in the real world, we let our tenacity muscle develop and we try harder the next time.
  • Using Words: If you’ve a lot to say, picking up the phone or in person communicating is still the most ideal and efficient way to get the point across. Tone changes and body language nuances can’t be captured via words on a screen. Misinterpretations lead to confusion and unforeseen and unproductive results. Robots can’t read emotions, however they might be getting better than humans, who are fast becoming machines.
Essena
The truth about Instagram Fame

SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook are venues for group signaling. Signaling goods signal status and affiliation to other “like minded” monkeys. Signaling goods can be physical – handbags, watches and fancy cars. They can be virtual – political, religious, and tribal affiliations. Social media makes it easier to signal wealth via conspicuous consumption of goods like food, travel and clothing. Editorial outrage is a signaling good. News outlets have switched from facts to opinions and outrage. Social media has degenerated into a deafening cacophony of groups signaling and repeating their shared myths.
~ Naval Ravikant.

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How to practice Social Media Nutrition: 

  • Un Subscribe: Disable notifications. When you enable or control notifications, it might seem like you’re in charge, but in reality you’re not. Give yourself 10 minutes of unstructured time on your phone for every 50 minutes of real work you’ve accomplished. Practice delayed gratification, over power your impulsiveness deliberately.
  • Check In: Check in with your emotions periodically. Are you bored, lonely or dissatisfied at the moment, and that’s making you reach for your phone? Cultivate an exciting real life, its in your own hands. Talk to your children about what happened in their day. Teach them to hike and travel this world.
  • Email Tyranny: There’s no doubt email is a necessity in the modern world. Planning events, coordinating family gatherings, sending a quick note to a loved one who lives far away – the advantages are endless. However, we often forget that no one is tying our productivity to the number of seconds it took us to respond to an “urgent” email.
  • Remove Temptations: The average person is checking his phone every 4 minutes. New studies on addiction have revealed that when it comes to addictions, we’re not victims of our own “uncontrollable vices” but are products of our environment. Just like slot machines and then video game, our digital devices are designed to addicted, because they give complete the feedback loop for us. Recognition, connectedness and the false sense of efficiently managing our different streams of useless information. Prune your thoughts and surroundings.
  • Bad News: Man’s stupidity, mother nature’s fury all that make up news. Fake news has influenced Presidential elections and celebrity fashion has changed our ideas about comfort clothing. One look at the comment section on any major news website and you can see that everyone feels like an Anderson Cooper shelling out his opinion like it matters.
  • Be Mindful: Take charge of how and what information you ingest. Just be in the now. Just be Here. Now. Get grips with your boredom. Practice gratitude and leave sometime in the day for introspection and gratitude.
  • Stop Broadcasting: Likes, hearts, saves, shares are buttons are designed to be addictive feedback loops. An 80 year old man recently gave me this lesson on how his view of Social media. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve “seen” your new car picture. That’s why I pressed the “love” button on it.” Its sad that generations of people are becoming victims to this narcisssitic epidemic.
  • Unplug Nightly: Stop electrifying the night. Practice social media detox for 24 hours every week. There have been movement since 2014 or earlier, where tons of people have been part of the “Night of unplugging”. Learn and sign up. Read more about how other countries are adapting the Right to disconnect laws in workplaces.
  • Busy Distraction: Teach yourself and your children that being busy doesn’t equate productivity. Learn how to use technology the right way and the most efficient way. Realize that you and your children might be under performing because your precious resources like time, attention, money are being spent online and away from your primary goals in life. 
  • Noise Minimization: Hotels, restaurants, books, movies – So many places you can champion the opinion on the internet. Ugh. Some books on Amazon.com have 3000 comments. Reddit is full of *$#$%*#$%#$%, that I know so many 20 year olds spend their entire days reading and laughing across coffee shops all across the world. Who are these people who have the time to consume everything that’s on the internet?? Why are we creating so much content?? Digital dementia is a real disease that’s not enabling us to use the content that’s most important and relevant to us. 
  • Dive Deep: When was the last time you actually indulged in something deeply – Deep thinking, deep work and deeply connectedness. Attention Residue is a huge load on our mental faculties. Its been proven that it takes 25 minutes to get back our attention to fully on what we were doing before we got distracted. When did you last single task on something? Or as Marie Forleo says, “Write your onesie” and stick with it until you can get to a meaningful break. Pay attention to your attention. Memes and Cat videos were created for entertainment.
  • Kick the Habit: Bedrooms and bathrooms don’t need to be wired, unless you’re the president. Now a days, in public places when two people are talking face to face, I feel like their most mundane conversations are intense. I realize I feel that way because real human connections have been that way, full of life and electrifying.
  • Stop Shopping: I mean photo shopping. Don’t listen to me, listen to the stories that Essena O’Neill told the world about her fake Instagram world that brought her fans from all the over the world. We’re basically paying for someone’s else’s creation of an artfully created social media post with our precious resources like focus and time. Let’s not be a generation despised by our daughters for being 45 year old mothers with duck faces. 
  • Make an Impact: Develop new interests. Create opportunities to interact with others. Make an impact, create a legacy. Create a real, rich life outside that is just as breathtaking as you. Be awesome, and be a lighthouse to lead others.
  • Click Bait: Stop searching. Every new search leads you to a new rabbit hole you are stuck for few hours. We say to ourselves, “I’m just going to check my email” or look at “that one text” and then we find that we’ve spent three hours perusing Facebook. Its ok if you don’t know what’s trending and whether the dress was blue of black. Cut your losses and move on.
  • Take Stock: Of your life, your priorities, your goals and your relationships. Align all the six spokes of the wheel called life. Family, Finances, physical, mental, social and spiritual. Good food nourishes the body while good thoughts and positive stories nourish your mind. Validate your own choices in how you use the medium. Remember, everything is permanent on the internet.
  • Practice Equanimity: Would you walk around greeting people with their duck face? Likes and hearts from strangers or “friends” don’t mean anything when you can’t have deep conversations with your loved ones who’re in the room with you. Walk the talk, if you want to see a different narrative on the internet, start with changing what you dump into it. 
    Had the best night on the internet. ~ Said no one ever.
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The Great Digital Divide

How we use social media and how we decide to use social media is the key. Social media is a blank canvas and we’re the ones painting it. If we don’t like what we see on it, I challenge you to change what you put on social media. Because you’re the ones filling it with content.
~ Cliff Lampe

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A case for technology:

While researching for this article, my son asked me one time, “What are you doing, mom?” to which I said, “I’m watching the video, ‘Could you live without a smart phone?’ He replied, “You mean, you’re watching it on a smart phone, mom?”

Let me be honest, without the internet and without this blog, I won’t even have a voice that’s capable of reaching every corner of the world. We live in a world where there are 30 year olds who didn’t know of a life before the internet. So, its impractical for us to disconnect because we have our work, school and personal obligations that are happening online, all the time. And, how else are we supposed to get over a bad day if not for watching stupid people get hit in their groins on their misadventures.

So we are better off adopting and adapting to technology if we don’t want to go extinct.

  • Social Capital: Thanks to technology, small businesses can now put themselves on a bigger map, network with potential clients and increase their reach to more than just word of mouth or traditional print advertising.
  • Instant Communication: I cannot imagine not having the chance to call up my Grandmother who’s 10000 miles away and for her to see my house if she wants to on video calls. Now, you don’t have to miss seeing your children’s faces when you travel for work. Thanks to Whatsapp, I can connect to my school and college friends in over 100 countries.
  • Change Agent: Social media carries with it a tremendous potential to act as a group and change agent, because people inherently believe in the general good of humanity. Spreading messages quickly and in a timely fashion for large impact is possible due to the lightning speed at which internet can create social movements.
  • Digital Ecosystem: In 20 years we have managed to remove physical clutter from our world and put it somewhere in the cloud. No printers, no problem, use social media to distribute your “flyers”. No hard drives? No problem, there’s Dropbox.com. Can’t wait for traditional publishers to love your manuscript, no problem. Sign up for free on Medium.com and build your legacy online.
  • Showcase Art: Make art and showcase it on a massive scale from the convenience of your living room. Artists have more visibility in our generation than any other generation before. Use Spotify as a mobile store front on the web, so customers can pay you for your product. Use Squarespace for a hosting platform of your portfolio.
  • Go Fund Me: Doing good things has a viral effect. It brings out more goodness out of others. Lets just soak in it, and not worry about the hidden agenda of people who’re doing good. intelligent and helpful technology. Believe good things can happen with the connected world we live in.
  • Modern Conveniences: We can now use Apple pay for paying for our lunch trays in 2 seconds. No setting up the tray aside, no taking out the credit card. Nothing. Literally pay on the go. We can now find out about travel advisories, school closings, weather updates with a click of a button. We can submit taxes online and write an email to a loved one in less than a few minutes. We can organize our lives around our family calendars on our phones.

Here’s how someone found a carpool ride from place A to B on Facebook.

Random fb request: anyone driving to Agra from Delhi this Saturday (18th)?
Response: Try blablacar.com or app!
Share your journey with BlaBlaCar – Trusted carpooling
BlaBlaCar is the world’s leading long distance carpooling service, connecting drivers with empty seats to people traveling the same way
BLABLACAR.COM.

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Theory of Evolution

The internet is a F*ing miracle. Its a F*ing miracle. The things that you could be doing with it, the fact that you can be laying F*ing naked in your bed at 2am in the morning and doing productive sh*t is F*ing crazy. Its crazy.
~ Gary Vaynerchuk

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Conclusion: 

When I let my phone rule my day, I feel like a digital crack addict who’s stuck in an information blender that’s lost its power button. I feel mushy, muggy and mostly live in a fog state of mind for most of the day. The days I’m on a self imposed digital detox, I actually end up seizing the day and accomplishing epic shit.

OK, let me be real here. I’m not on Facebook because its not a place where I can be authentic about my ambivalence on life’s purpose and display my anxiety about my future as a writer. I’m not on any Social Media because I sit at home most weekends and don’t get invited to or host awesome parties. My life is not a highlight reel of my spectacular children and the splendid vacations we’re taking. Simply put, I can’t keep up with my brand value on the internet all the time, and so, I sit out of the competition.

I’m afraid, technology is enabling us to live like mediocre pieces of shit and get away with it, because we’re all “so busy”. My point is, we all are telling ourselves that doing something constantly with our time is a way of our modern lives. But, its not true. There’s nothing on the other side of the screen that’s more important than what’s happening in our real life now. Its in our hands to avoid addiction to technology. Its in our hands to stop consuming everything that meets the eye, to take back the control and to stop living in the margins. If not, we won’t make any real friends now, who will later Facebook live stream our funeral.

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Alone together

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.
~ Bill Gates

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