Experiment notes: Digital Minimalism

Published: April 03, 2023

I just finished the experiment I wrote about last month! This is a brief note on how it went.

Tl;dr: My adherence to the plan I laid out wasn’t perfect, but the month helped me refine my relationship to how I’m using online services.

What went well

Where did I make some exceptions

I used instagram a bit returning from Norway during dead travel time. I enjoyed the process of editing together some photo edits and reels.

I also checked on hacker news every few days and find it’s a valuable way to get industry insights. The key for me is avoiding the comments, as with most online comments the signal:noise is not super high, though much better than most of the rest of the web.

Surprisingly, I actually found myself using YouTube more than other months. The longer form videos available on topics I care about are in many ways higher signal than articles, largely due to the amount of SEO spam on the web. Youtube isn’t perfect here, recommended videos are often just as spammy/clickbaity and scrolling it looking for content isn’t very effective, but I’m subscribed to some high quality channels and intentional searches yield great results.

What seems durable going forward?

The biggest change I see is spending notably less time on social media. I don’t see this as zero, but I do see myself posting less often and spending dramatically less time scrolling.

Some time back forced me to examine my motivations and what I actually get out of frequently using social media, and I found what I value from it is a pulse with friends who are distant. The required engagement for that is quite low, probably on the order of checking in every 2-4 weeks for an hour or so. Keeping the apps off my phone except when I intend to actually use them helps avoid it being a habitual time wasting practice.

Having my phone on me less in general certainly seems durable. I don’t need to be reachable 24/7 outside of relatively rare periods. My average screen time was generally below an hour most weeks this month, with exceptions largely when I was traveling (which I did a lot of!) and for navigation.

Strava, after even a tiny bit of time away, seems silly. I’m glad my friends are active, but I really don’t care what their mile splits are, nor do I care if they see mine. It encourages focusing on the wrong things for myself: most training should be done at slow/easy paces, but pace being front and center pushes you to go harder than is effective. Similarly, total vertical feet is probably the thing I care least about skiing compared to my own style and the snow/terrain quality, but I find people who are very into strava focus almost universally on it. The data/training analysis tools are somewhat valuable and I may keep it around for that, though Garmin’s tooling covers most all of those bases for my uses.