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Stop Using Your Smartphone to Fight Loneliness. It’s Not Working.

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This program origionally aired 2-12-19.

With social networks at our fingertips, it’s easy to feel like we’re more connected than ever before, but your constant scrolling, liking, and app downloading may actually decrease your quality of life.

That’s according to “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World”, a new book by Georgetown computer scientist and author Cal Newport. In the book, Newport explores a new philosophy for technology use -- one where you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected activities which bring you both utility and joy.

It comes down to a 30-day process that starts with a full-stop, stepping away from all non-essential digital mediums. Basically, everything besides what you *absolutely* need to function in your personal and professional life.

“You’re 30 days away, but it’s not just a detox. The idea’s not ‘let me get away, take a break, and then go back to everything.’ This is actually a reset,” Newport says. “So you move all of these things out of your life. During these 30 days you begin to reflect on, ‘what’s actually important to me? What do I actually want to spend my time on? What do I value?’ And then when the 30 days are over, you have this high threshold that any tech has to pass to come back into your life.”

It’s then about deciding if each digital medium that you’ve removed from your life actually helps support one of the values you identified during your no-media decluttering period. From there, you can start consciously reintroducing digital media, hopefully with a new level of respect for your non-digital time.

“So essentially, and I learned this after the book came out, essentially what I’m advocating is like, ‘Marie Kondo-ing’ your digital life,” Newport jokes, referencing the popular Netflix program, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

On this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with author Cal Newport about this new method for digital mindfulness. Later in the hour, Kieffer speaks with two Iowans, Mike Klug from Iowa City and former Iowa Public Radio producer Clare Roth, who have each taken intentional steps to reconfigure their relationships with digital media.


Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River