Digital Minimalism: How to redesign our Relationship with Technology

Digital Minimalism

The digital lifestyle is now more than ever ingrained into our daily lives. According to the State of internet in Kenya 2017 released by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), as of 2017 a total of 12 million Kenyans were on WhatsApp with 7.1 million being on Facebook. Social media seems to be where Kenyans are spending their data. It’s considered the ultimate place to sink and relax, great for those idle moments. Be that as it may, it does come with a price, Digital addiction. As our digital presence grows so does our digital clutter.

Life today is very tech-centric. We live at a time where owning a mobile phone is essential to our very existence. Today’s mobile phones have enhanced utility -purely driven by the desire to connect, which allows people to access content and services via the internet. From dating, financial, education, health apps… they have a long tail of use to fully map out. Our lives today can suddenly be managed by a handheld device and we are not shy to milk them for their worth. People are spending more time on their social media accounts in search for that perfect online experience. This immoderate usage of our phones has ended up disrupting many lives, leaving a trail of digital clutter in its wake. Digital minimalism promises a solution.

Many of us are getting over dependent on our social media apps as well as mobile phones in general. We are getting so reliant on our apps, that we are even doing the most physically rewarding and memorable of things using our phones. It is no surprise that most people can’t function at optimum capacity without a phone. Losing a phone is actually a stress trigger among many millennials, higher than even making rent or losing a job. Their enhanced utility is increasingly covering huge parts of our waking hours.

In fact research shows that, Smartphone usage has doubled worldwide in the last 5 years, 1 of every 2 minutes spent online is on “leisure activities”, such as social media, video viewing, entertainment/music, and games ,1 of every 5 minutes spent online is on social media. Facebook –which is the second most visited website in Kenya, has over 8.5 million monthly visitors, 98% accessing the app via mobile phones.

It’s time to put an end to this madness. Technology is starting to “own” us. It’s about time we redesign our relationship with technology. After all, it’s more than generally accepted that, Life happens when you look up and around you, not screens. So, just how can we be more mindful of our technology usage? Simple, by practicing digital minimalism.

“Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life” Cal Newport

You have to question whether any piece of technology you use — email, social media, internet browsing, and the phone — is adding or removing value to your life. Doesn’t matter whether your mobile phone is a flagship model or a “mulika mwizi”, the idea behind digital minimalism is to declutter your digital life to use just what you need in the most efficient way possible.

Practical digital minimalism tips to help you declutter your digital life


Set Up: Always set up or start your computer with the intention to use. By leaving it idling on, you might just be tempted to indulge in non-productive usage.

Clean Up the Desktop: remove all the files and programs from your desktop. Makes it harder for you to get distracted by your pass time programs or files.

Choose a Clean Wallpaper: it might seem trivial, but your wallpaper can have an impact on your productivity. Pick a photo that won’t distract you but rather help you focus.

Auto-Hide the Dock: you can set it up in the Dock preferences.

Uninstall Programs: go through your apps and delete everything that you don’t use.

Work in Full-Screen Mode: most programs offer full-screen mode, a perfect way to block out distractions.

Mobile Phone

Close to 10 years ago, we were using keyboards to type and sending messages via sms. However now, phones are a big parts of our lives. As such, we have to practice moderation in their usage, least we turn into phone zombies (it’s a thing). Here’s the step-by-step for digital minimalism on your phone and all-around a better experience:

Remove Apps: Just  as with the computer,digital minimalism starts when you delete all the apps you don’t use anymore. For apps you use but not frequently consider using the browser version.

Remove Social Media: Scary, right? But don’t worry, the detox shakes will wear off and you’ll survive. Social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s been known to have social ramifications when made a habit.

A Mindful Home Screen: place the 4 most used apps on your dock at the bottom. Put everything else into a single folder.

Clean Up Contacts: browse through your contact list and delete numbers you won’t need ever again.

Delete: In case you never considered this, the best way to clean up your phone and save up on memory is by deleting podcasts and music you don’t listen to anymore. We live in the App and streaming era. Digital minimalism fully endorses Streaming instead of downloading audio files.

The Internet

The internet remains to be the hardest monster to tame in the digital world. Many governments and hackers have tried to topple it yet, it still mostly prevails as a free entity. The internet is one big wonderful yet messy place. If you don’t use it wisely and purposefully, you are most likely to end up in rabbit holes. Here’s how you can achieve digital minimalism on the internet:

Know Your Time Wasters: Time Tracker is an efficient program that you can use to figure where you spend most of your web browsing. Knowing the time-wasters is the first step towards digital minimalism.

Unfollow & Unfriend: if it doesn’t interest, entertain, or inform you anymore it’s time to go. Our feeds are full of distracting posts from people we’re not particularly close to. Unfriend anyone that doesn’t add value to your life.

Delete Social Media:In digital minimalism ,there is no sense using all the platforms available. You need only keep the ones that you love. If you want to go full on exterminator mode you can delete your profiles. However to be less extreme you should probably just simply de-activate your account.

Review Your Reading: stop browsing websites that do not contribute to your life. Removing an option by default is the quickest way to change behavior.

Block Websites: blacklist websites that aren’t essential for work.You can use digital minimalism  tools which can be  found in most browsers In Mac use SelfControl; in Windows, Cold Turkey; in Chrome, StayFocusd; in Firefox use LeechBlock.



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