If you feel like your smartphone is sucking you into an episode of Black Mirror – specifically “Nosedive”, where the socioeconomic status of Ms Bryce Dallas Howard’s protagonist is determined by her star rating – you’re not far wrong. According to Mr Cal Newport, author of new book Digital Minimalism, we spend on average two hours a day on social media, which is engineered to be addictive by exploiting psychological bugs such as our craving for approval. In the words of comedian and talk show host Mr Bill Maher, cited by Mr Newport, social media tycoons are “tobacco farmers in T-shirts”.
While he doesn’t have a Facebook account (how does he survive?), Mr Newport is a professor of computer science at Georgetown, so he’s hardly a Luddite. Nor is he advocating that we give up all our devices – just, well, minimise their use. “We cannot passively allow the wild entanglement of tools, entertainments and distractions provided by the digital age to dictate how we spend our time or how we feel,” he writes. “Humans are not wired to be constantly wired.” The consequences – including depression, anxiety and, ironically, loneliness – are, like smoking, demonstratively deleterious to our health.
Named by fellow self-improvement scribe Mr Ryan Holiday as one of 2019’s must-reads (he credits it with curing his Facebook addiction), Digital Minimalism is as magically life-changing as a Ms Marie Kondo declutter. Get your virtual house in order with this advice from Mr Newport.