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Cal Newport


Digital Minimalism is a book by Cal Newport that I read during my senior year of high school, but I still believe that it holds a strong grip on my day-to-day life. The book taught me a lot of valuable and almost frightening realizations about myself and my reliance on social media for dopamine and my own self-worth. If my Instagram post did not get as many comments as I thought it would when I would post it, that would make me feel bad about myself, and that was something I could not take. Something as insignificant as a comment or a like was holding a firm grasp over the way that I felt and carried myself on a regular basis, and I hated that.

To begin to counteract the way that I relied on Instagram, I deleted it for one month, an action the book describes as a Digital Declutter. At first, my innate desire to be on it was evident as I would find myself mindlessly trying to click on the app that no longer existed on my phone. After about three days, that desire had completely gone away. I was somewhat worried through this process that I would begin to fall out of touch with my peers by no longer being active on their timelines as well as not seeing what they are up to, but that feeling went away as I still got to see everybody at school and kept in touch with all of my friends still.

I eventually redownloaded the app back onto my phone, and never felt that same desire to be on it during all of my down time anymore. To also make sure that I would be living up to my own standards, I set time restrictions onto the app preventing me from spending more time on it than I allocated every day. My happiness became a lot stronger during this period as I began to develop other ways to get my daily dose of dopamine.

I believe that this addiction and dependence that my generation, as well as the kids younger than me, is extremely unhealthy and is going to cause some very negative impacts on our generation. It is rare, in this modern era, to see children playing outside after school as often as it used to be, as portrayed in a lot of older media. The dopamine given off by staying inside and playing games or staring at minute long videos for hours greatly trumps that of being active. Attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter due to the influx of apps like Vine and TikTok, that thrive off short witted comedy.

There are so many distractions in our world today. While it is not unhealthy to tread lightly through the plethora of online apps that exist nowadays, overdependence on some of these apps can approach dangerous levels. Giving up these apps is a hard task to grasp though, as so much of modern culture and social interaction takes place in this method that it is almost necessary to utilize in order to stay up to date with friends, news, and life. Finding a healthy balance is essential.

One of the nicest weeks I have had in a long time came during the summer of 2020. My family took a beach trip out to Indian Shores, Florida, and for the weekend, I completely turned off my phone and left it at the beach house while we did many different activities. I was living in my own world for that period of time, free from distraction and stress. I got to read very often on the beach, enjoy the beautiful views, and got to spend a lot of quality time with my siblings and parents.

Another instance of something along those lines is something I did in July of 2021, where I took a trip to Congaree National Park in South Carolina. While in the park, I put my phone away to maximize the amount I could enjoy the nice environment and got to have a lot of impactful conversations with my girlfriend, Nicole.

Giving my brain a break from the flashy, overwhelming world is something I need every once in a while. This book gave me a newfound respect for my own time and gave me some great inspiration toward being more productive and an all-around happier person.

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