Lane librarian reviews book on minimizing screen time

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“Digital Minimalism,” by Cal Newport, is reviewed by the Lane Library’s Kevin Sequeria. Photo courtesy of Amazon

By Peyton Gigante

The holidays are undoubtedly one of the most stressful times of the year. From buying adequate presents, to cooking a substantial meal, and holiday decorations, it can be easy to get caught up in the clutter.

For this week’s edition of the Oxford Observer, we have another book review from the Lane Library’s Kevin Sequeira. Sequeira reviewed Cal Newport’s “Digital Minimalism,” Newport’s third book about self-improvement in his “Deep Work” series.

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestseller, this book will help you achieve the minimalism that you have been seeking. Rated a 4.5 on Amazon, and a 4.1 on Goodreads, this book could be a great gift for the person who is trying to cope with the world by diminishing their technology use.

Available for purchase on Amazon Books, Kindle, at Barnes & Noble, and for checking out at the Lane Library, this book has no specific age preference, but is great for those that enjoy the self-help genre.

Helpful, succinct, and timely, this book could be your next step in minimizing the technology that is “virtually” everywhere in our lives.

Book Review by Kevin Sequeira

If you are looking for a digital cleanse or to ‘Marie Kondo’ your digital footprint across social media, taking back control of your time and your life, then I’d recommend Cal Newport’s third book, ”Digital Minimalism, which espouses the philosophy of less is more.

While it neither suggests going completely off-grid, nor advocating a stringent digital detox, Newport makes a strong case for resisting the lure of technology and the addictiveness of screen time. ”Digital” is all about reclaiming our leisure time, wrestling control from technology to realign it with our goals and values; and connecting with people instead of networks.

“Digital Minimalism” is based on a number of academic ‘digi-detox’ experiments, interesting case studies, and some thoughtfully provided background on the nature of technology. Newport is an academic in computer science at Georgetown University.

Newport shows us that social platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, are by their very design created to take over all one’s free time, attention, and focus. This insight from the book helps take out the guilt while offering some explanation for our losing battle with smart devices.

Parents these days are looking to unhook their teenagers from the screen and reclaim dinner time with meaningful conversation. Newport is all about reclaiming leisure time.  He suggests ‘dumbing down’ our smart devices into single-purpose computers, by deleting most unnecessary social media from phones …and occasionally leaving it at home!

“Digital Minimalism” is the logical sequel to his earlier book, ”Deep Work, as he shifts emphasis from eliminating distractions throughout the work day to one’s personal/family life here. I liked the proscriptive nature of this work. Newport advocates using smart devices more intentionally, by asking ourselves, “What am I trying to accomplish when I use technology and is this the best way to serve my goal?” The hope is that using Newport’s practical suggestions one can escape the clutches of tech, live in the present, and be more content in one’s life.

The book lays emphasis on getting a hobby or a pleasurable pursuit in the real world. Pretty old school! Newport gives a name to this resistant movement and invites us, the reader, to assimilate a few strategies to feel less overwhelmed with better control of our lives in an otherwise rushed, attention-seeking and tech-super saturated world. While technology is neither all good nor all bad, does it support your goals and values?

Digital helps us realize which digital tools to use, their purpose and what we (albeit unknowingly) give up to technology in place of making life more meaningful. Are you ready to take back control of your life in 2020?