Deciding is the easy part

So recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use it less. About how to get the benefits from the technology without all the downsides.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/a-radical-guide-to-spending-less-time-on-your-phone/

Hey, thanks for deciding to receive this not-so-little email from me each week.

Did you notice how easy it was to decide to get this additional, new interruption? My web site is friendly, the form is friendly, dear Friend all you have to do is put your email in this form . . . But if you decide to leave this weekly email? Well, first you have to have one of the emails in front of you, then scroll down and find the unsubscribe link at the bottom, click that, etc. It’s not much harder than joining, but it is just a little bit harder.

Let’s say you decide—after reading Holiday’s post or this post or that post—to clear the home screen of your phone, (not the lock screen, but the first screen you see after unlocking.) Have you tried to do that? It’s difficult. First you have to manually move those apps, one by one, to other pages… Then you have to keep up with that if your phone throws new apps on that nice clean screen. You have to change how you launch apps; If you simply swipe and find the app, well, that’s going to become a new default habit: Unlock-phone-and-swipe-right will be muscle-memory in a day. To make the blank home-screen useful, you have to also get in the habit of using your phone’s search to launch exactly the app you opened the phone for in the first place. But that is quickly learned by your phone. You have to go in and adjust search settings so that when the search input is blank, it doesn’t suggest the apps you often use. Otherwise the search screen will become just another screen of app icons you’ll tap on via muscle-memory. The phone is designed to try to help, so it’ll feed you a new habit. Then a notification pops up. And you want to disable those, so you have to dive into settings… And get used to telling apps, “no notifications” when they first ask. And then something will break… like suddenly Google Maps can’t use “Siri” so it doesn’t work in Car Play. (Me: “Wait. Wat?”)

It’s not just with fiddly phones. Decide you don’t want to watch Netflix. …but, movie date-night with the spouse is a legit thing we want to do now and then. Decide you want to only own one car. Decide you want to grow some food in a garden. Decide you want to make a few new friends. Decide you don’t want your phone ringing.

My friends, deciding is the easy part. The hard part is doing the really complicated, detail-oriented, 57-step planning, and 2 hours of fiddling, (or days of labor or thousands of dollars in expense,) figuring out how to make the change, how to keep the change in place, and even how to figure out in advance what things depend on the thing you’re deciding to change.

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Digital minimalism

To be a digital minimalist, in other words, means you accept the idea that new communication technologies have the potential to massively improve your life, but also recognize that realizing this potential is hard work.

~ Cal Newport, from https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2016/12/18/on-digital-minimalism/

That’s the most succinct description I can recall ever seeing.

“Realizing this potential is hard work,” is a sublime understatement. Tracy asked me for a password to something and we ended up in a deep rabbit hole of having to also share the security questions, and it’s tied to my cell phone and actually I don’t know what the password is because I forgot to store it (in my little password management tool) even though my browser had it remembered so I’d been logging in for . . . Complicated.

Obviously in the case of the password, it was worth the effort. But then, next minute, we’re faced with the newest social service, and this software and that software and on and on. Choosing the default of engaging with each thing is an already-lost war.

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