Digital Minimalism: How to Beat Your Cell Phone Addiction

We all look at our phones WAY too much. Every night I come home from work and mindlessly scroll through my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed for what feels like 10 minutes until I actually start paying attention. I’ll cook dinner and scroll through Instagram while the oven heats up. I’ll turn on a TV show and end up scrolling through Twitter the whole time. I’ll take a shit, and sure enough, my legs go numb from swiping through Facebook pictures for 25 minutes even though I finished 10 minutes ago.

The worst/best thing that Apple came out with was the feature that shows how much you look at your phone and how much time you spend on certain apps. It’s like when McDonald’s started putting the calories next to everything. Turns out I average around 3 hours of phone time a day. THREE HOURS. EVERY DAY. Think about that! If I spent three hours every day learning Mandarin I’d be fluent in a couple months. Instead I spent 15 hours on Instagram in the last ten days. Seriously… that’s what my report says. Insane.


I recently listened to a podcast called The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes. This episode featured a guy called Cal Newport, who I heard of through other famous authors recommending his well-known book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown, and author of six self-improvement books. After listening to his insights on the podcast, I walked in to a bookstore, and bought a copy of his latest book, Digital Minimalism right away.

Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport


I finished it in two days. I devoured that shit. Before I even opened it up I knew I was going to love it. I fucking hate my phone. Well, actually I love it. It’s complicated. It’s an abusive relationship. I love it because it keeps me informed, it has all of my information so I never have to enter my address or credit card info, it gives me directions to wherever I need to be, it gives me reviews on places I want to check out, it even makes automatic photo albums of everyone I know with fucking facial recognition technology. It’s a miracle device and we’re all spoiled for having one.

But at the same time, I need it out of my life. Have you ever gone three hours without your phone? It’s torture. You tap your pockets and check the couch cushions. “WHERE THE FUCK IS IT???”

How about the hour after you post an Instagram photo. How often are you checking it. “OH WOW I GOT ONE MORE LIKE SINCE THE LAST TIME I CHECKED 30 SECONDS AGO.”

We don’t need that in our life. Studies have shown (btw, love starting sentences with “studies have shown”) an unbelievable increase in anxiety since the year 2006. Like unprecedented levels of anxiety. You know what else came out in 2006?


Throughout Digital Minimalism, Newport points out that the iPhone isn’t what caused the current levels of anxiety and addiction that are such a problem. It actually stemmed from the introduction of a few things to Facebook:

  1. The “Like” button
  2. The Facebook mobile app
  3. Red notification symbol staring you in the face
  4. Paid ads

Before this, Facebook was just a cool website you went on if you happened to be on a desktop computer or laptop. You could connect with your high school or college friends. And that’s basically it. It was cool! There was no feed, no “likes”, no commenting, no notifications. Just profiles of people. You could check out if that girl you liked had a boyfriend, or what college that old friend of yours ended up going to.

Then, it turned into a digital slot machine. First it became mobile – now you could access it 24/7 from your iPhone. From there, it became a collection of likes, notifications, comments, opinions, status updates, pages you liked, events you were interested in. It became so addictive it was impossible to look away. It made you crave more, and more, and more. All your friends were doing it so it was fine. How else were you supposed to connect or keep up with birthdays and house parties? What were you supposed to do with all those pictures you took on Spring Break?

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Every night I come home from work and by 9:30 or so I realize I’ve spent over an hour just scrolling through stupid shit on my phone. After a while my thumb hurts and I end up tossing my phone out of sight so I can restrain myself. In #digitalminimalism #calnewport calls out the trap of endlessly surfing your feed and how Facebook/Twitter only want your attention. Your 🕰 = their💰 After reading this I’m now making a conscious effort to delete all the useless apps on my phone and setting strict limits on how often I can check things like Instagram. I also want to focus more on valuing face to face conversation, and taking time to call someone versus just sending convenient and mindless texts throughout the day.

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And from this craving of validation, likes, and updates, we’ve all grown accustomed to “connecting” but not “conversing.” You can like or comment or snapchat with your friend as much as you want, but how often do you actually have a conversation with them? A few texts every now and then doesn’t count either. This book made me understand how important actual conversation is.

Instead of “liking” pictures of someone’s baby, call them up and ask them how it is being a parent. Instead of texting your friend about something cool you did, leave a video message and ask them to return one back. Maybe you’ll actually feel a little better. Actually, according to the studies, you’re guaranteed to feel better.

Don’t forget what these social media companies are trying to do. Your time = their money.

Solitude was another key. Your phone is always with you. I go for long walks all of the time, but even then, I have my headphones in and I’m completely reliant on my phone for podcasts, music, directions, and how many steps I’m taking. After reading this, I’m going to make an effort to leave my phone at home and go for walks. This is where most writers, artists, and musicians have their greatest ideas. You know why? Because there are no inputs. Just you and your thoughts. Sounds scary doesn’t it? But how are you supposed to come up with an idea for the next great startup when you’re too busy humming along to Party in the U.S.A. ?

I want to start leaving my phone home when I go out to dinner. Too often I go out with friends and we end up scrolling through Instagram while sitting right next to each other.

It’s actually hilarious when you realize how often you do this shit.

As I spoke about before, you’re now able to limit the activity you spend on certain apps on your phone, which is awesome. If you have an iPhone, go to:

Settings > Screen Time > App Limits

App Limits

I completely deleted Facebook, Twitter, GroupMe, and a bunch of other useless apps. I made a rule that I can only check those sites once a day on my laptop when I really need to – most likely for an event. I kept Instagram on my phone since I use that to promote this blog, but I limited my time to just an hour a day, and I hid the Instagram icon in a folder on my second page to slow down my automatic trigger finger upon unlocking my phone.

I also cleaned up my homescreen so I’m not as tempted to click on apps for absolutely no reason. Just the ones I really need.

App Homescreen
Keepin it real bare bones. Looks more like my old Blackberry.

Phones are awesome. Let’s not forget that. Having access to all the information in the world is amazing. What we don’t need though, is constant garbage filling our brains, constantly looking to refresh your feed for more garbage and more content and more videos. It’s not only making us stupid and dulling our senses, it’s making us miss the little things that make life meaningful.

Go for a walk without your phone. Meet up with your friends and actually talk to them. Look people in the eye. Look both ways before you cross the street, smile at a little kid waiting in line at the store, notice the buildings that you walk past.

Just stop looking at that damn slot machine in your hand.


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