Digital Minimalism: Creating a Philosophy of Personal Technology Use

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It has been said that the choice is not between philosophy and no philosophy, but between good philosophy and bad philosophy; for to have no philosophy is itself a philosophy, albeit a disastrous one. The same holds true for digital technology which, although often vital in the modern world, can be dangerous if used mindlessly.

For these next two episodes, we welcome back Dr. Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University and New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Digital Minimalism and A World Without Email. In this week’s episode, we will focus on the first of these two books, Digital Minimalism, and how we can develop a deliberate and purposeful approach to our use of technology.

In this episode: 

  1. Learn about the history and psychology of smartphones and social media.
  2. Listen to Cal discuss his philosophy of digital minimalism. 
  3. Hear about the thirty day “digital declutter” and why you should try it for yourselves.
  4. Gain some practical wisdom about implementing the philosophy in your homes

In all, Cal offers us a hopeful view for the future. With the shimmer of novelty beginning to fade, now is the time to think about how to best integrate digital technology into our lives and into the lives of our children.

Show Highlights

  • What lessons the history of smartphones can teach us
  • Are social media companies purposefully manipulative?
  • The exuberance-integration cycle
  • How understanding underlying causes can help us to find meaningful solutions to technology 
  • Tech hacks are not enough: why we need a philosophy of technology
  • What are we giving up when we introduce a new technology to our lives?
  • Time is a scarce resource: invest it well
  • The digital declutter 
  • How Cal approaches technology in his own home
  • What until eight? How about eighteen
  • How five percent can beget fifty percent
  • Three is all you need to make digital minimalism a viable option for many

Suggested Reading

Digital Minimalism

Additional Listening

Forming Deep Workers, Part I

Forming Deep Workers, Part II

Cal Newport

About the guest:

Cal Newport


Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. In addition to studying the theoretical foundations of our digital age, Newport also writes about the impact of these technologies on the world of work. His most recent book, Deep Work, argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace and that the ability to concentrate without distraction is becoming increasingly valuable. He previously wrote So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book which debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice, and three popular books of unconventional advice for students.