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Purge your phone: the case for digital minimalism

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Cal Newport has been called the “Marie Kondo of tech” for recommending a minimalist smartphone experience. Photo credit: Penny Gray

Some people are trying to dial back on their phone habit by visiting private clubs with no-phone policies.

But, says computer scientist Cal Newport, “if you need to consider joining something like that, that should be the signal that there's a problem that is pretty broad in your life that you need to attack a lot more aggressively.”

So Newport, author of the newly published “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World,” is offering up a guide to attacking phone addiction more aggressively, with a strategy out of Marie Kondo’s playbook.

“Digital minimalism asks that you essentially start from scratch with digital tech in your personal life. So you clear the slate of whatever those apps and services or devices that you sort of haphazardly brought into your life over the last five to 10 years and you rebuild from scratch,” he said.

DnA talks to Newport about how to clean your smartphone slate, starting with social media apps, and asks whether the problem is the phone or the addiction to social media, whatever platform it comes on.


Our phones can quickly feel cluttered with apps we don’t need. Cal Newport recommends a 30-day “digital detox” to make your phone work for you.

Newport explains that smartphone addiction is to Generation Z -- “the first generation to have near ubiquitous access to smartphones and social media as they entered adolescence” -- what smoking was to boomers and Gen X-ers.

He predicts that “we'll look back five years later at smartphone use about young adolescents the same way we now look back at letting teenagers smoke in a previous generation.”

Credits

Guest:
Cal Newport - associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and author of “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World”

Host:
Frances Anderton

Producers:
Frances Anderton, Avishay Artsy