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A Brief Guide to Digital Decluttering digital detox|person in front of computer screen digital detox|girl putting digital devices away digital detox|person using a tablet digital detox|person touching apps digital detox


Digital Detox: A Guide to Digital Decluttering

The Internet is an incredible invention and something that can have a very positive impact on daily life. However, it can also be harmful in some ways. Social media and even the intelligence of search engines create an echo chamber that presents mostly content that you agree with. This can demonize those with other perspectives and creates an “us vs. them” mentality that can make the world seem more stressful and unwelcoming than it really is.

Even if you avoid the more polarizing content, it's easy to forget that social media allows people to present a highly curated version of their lives. When it appears that all of your friends are posting about spa holidays, climbing mountains, or going to wild gigs, your own life can seem boring by comparison.

So, if you’ve been trying to incorporate minimalism into your life recently, perhaps it’s worth stretching that concept to digitally decluttering your life. Read on to learn how.

person in front of computer screen

Wasting Your Life in Front of a Screen

The average person spends two hours 22 minutes per day on social media. 1 That may not sound like a lot, but when you take away time for sleeping, eating, personal hygiene and work or studies, that couple of hours becomes a huge chunk of the remaining time. Social media can be a nice distraction for those of us who have a long commute by bus or train. However, for those who are wasting time that could be invested in work or study on social media, it's a significant time sink and one that, all too often, does not make people happy.

Studies show that social media can increase stress in a number of ways: 2

    • Increased pressure to keep up with the perfect lifestyles of others

    • Increased pressure to make your life look good when you post

    • Concerns about privacy

    • Struggles to remain productive when you are distracted by the lure of social media posts

All of these factors can mount up. They may not be huge stressors individually, but they can leave people less productive and just generally distracted. Logging out or switching off can often be a big help for your sanity.

girl putting digital devices away

Could You Do a Digital Detox?

Most people are required to be reachable online in some way. Whether that's using the messaging tool that your colleagues use, checking email periodically, or maintaining a profile on LinkedIn or some other platform to keep yourself marketable, completely unplugging often is not an option.

What you can do in a lot of cases, however, is cut back and declutter your digital life. Think of it as a softer version of a digital detox. Consider the following:

    • Uninstall the apps for Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, etc on your phone. Use the web browser to browse at your desk.

    • If you must have the apps, turn off push notifications and open the apps at a specific time of day to check your messages.

    • Use a service such as to unsubscribe from email lists that are no longer relevant to you.

    • Use a service such as Rescue Time to track how much time you spend on non-productive sites and restrict access if they're time wasters.

    • Set Do Not Disturb on your phone so you aren't distracted at inconvenient times.

    • Uninstall games if you are playing them out of habit but they aren't providing you with much fun.

    • If you still use Facebook, snooze or unfollow people that stress you out.

    • If you want to avoid certain topics, use Fluff Busting Purity, the browser extension, to hide those topics.

    • Use Duck Duck Go instead of Google so your searches aren't excessively biased towards your interests.

    • Use AdBlock to hide intrusive advertisements.

With those simple changes, you should find that you get fewer emails, will interact more with real-life friends and less with strangers online, and when you do browse sites, they will be less cluttered with ads.

person using a tablet

Time Your Digital Usage

Another practice that you may find useful for improving your relationship with technology is timing your digital device use around your spare time and lifestyle. Using technology before bed can interfere with sleep patterns because the blue light makes your body think it's still daytime. 3

You can limit the impact of this by either using your phone in dark mode where the screen does not have a white background, switching to a Kindle Paperwhite to read ebooks, using apps to change the hue of your screen as the time of day changes, or even better—turning off technology an hour or so before bed.

Combine this with good bedtime practices—no caffeine in the evening, limited screen time before bed, etc.— and you will find it easier to doze off.

Technology Is a Tool

Digital devices are one of the things that people tend to hold on to even as they work towards a more minimalistic lifestyle. Digital decluttering is an important step toward a healthier and happier life, however. Take a moment to think about how happy and calm some of the senior citizens in your life are. How often do you see them in outrage over the latest meme? How often do they have their favorite TV show spoiled? Do they argue with their friends over trivialities?

Human interactions will always be slightly fraught, but social media can augment a lot of tension. When you take a moment to step away from the keyboard, you will likely find that people are nicer face to face. You'll have more time to read a book, play a sport, try a craft, or just slow down and relax.

person touching apps

Final Thoughts

Whether a digital detox is your first step towards changing your life to a more minimalistic one or your email inbox and notification tray are the last places that are overstuffed, try clearing them out. You might get a shock at how heavy a weight the stress of digital interactions can be on your shoulders and how easily it can be lifted with a digital detox.

Photo credits: blackzheep/, EkaterinaMarkelova/, GaudiLab/, PopTika/

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