An Analog Life

Cal Newport saved my life.

Actually, he invited me to save my own life.

I first met Cal in his book “Deep Work” which excited me about reimagining work, even my own, slowly diminishing work. But what really resonated with me was his mention of another book of his “Digital Minimalism”.

I have been feeling lost to myself. And I recognize how often I turn to my phone to fill in the spaces. So I decided to embark upon a one month digital detox per Cal’s suggestions.

I removed all social media from my phone and tablet and those shopping apps that I get lost in: ThredUp and Amazon and Etsy and Ebay. Then I began paying attention.

The first few days were difficult. Reaching for the phone had become a habit and I wasn’t sure what else I would do. The idea of the digital detox is twofold: give up/radically reduce phone usage and begin to pay attention to my longings and find analog ways to meet them.

Like other addictions, the phone can fill a void or provide relief from uncomfortable feelings. Staying with discomfort is not my strong point. I want to be inspired. I want to be seen and heard. I want to connect.

But is social media really connecting? Because lately, it seems to be more about marketing…ads every two or three posts on Instagram or Pinterest…ads filling the pages of websites and leading to an overwhelming visual experience for me. And yet I fall in. I click and I follow and I sometimes buy.

There is also Phone as Entertainment…like I am a child again, waking up and rushing to the living room to watch cartoons…only now I can just sit in bed to scroll or listen to podcasts. These are not inherently bad things to do. It’s about quantity.

Before the detox began, I realized that if I want more spaciousness, I should stop filling up all of the spaces. During the detox, the most radical thing I did was sitting still. Watching what showed up. Listening for what an analog life might look like.

I thought about art galleries, art practice (collage, bookbinding, assemblages), walking, reading, writing, knitting, hand sewing ala Alabama Chanin, dancing, gardening and sitting in silence. All delicious possibilities.

But could I do it?

During my month, I discovered that I don’t need apps to go down my favorite rabbit holes. A good search engine will take me anywhere. And so I had to shore up my intention and renew my commitment.

Digital Minimalism is not a one time fix. It’s an ongoing diligence.

I now have a phone which allows me to set limits on certain apps which I find very helpful. I’m not a Luddite. I love listening to Podcasts, reading blogs and learning new art techniques online. But the bottom line is that I have to develop new habits…saving my life one day at a time.

4 Thoughts

  1. Right on! Wonderfully perceptive, explains why we haven’t heard how you are doing. Picture perfect as I look around the Christmas table with our CA kids and see all the IPhones.
    Your Rast Coast uncle

      1. Hi Jeanne, I am so glad you have reappeared. I have been urging Bob to call if you are ok, but in true Milburnian fashion, he does not want to intrude. Though I agree that electronics want to overtake our lives, what is wrong with old-fashioned letters, or with virtual visits via Zoom, so we can count each others’ grey or non-existent hair but relish familiar smiles.
        Let’s stay in touch.
        Happy New Year!

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