Digital Minimalism as a Developer

What Digital Minimalism Means to me as a Software Developer

  • Sunday, December 6, 2020 8:17PM

I'm coming to the end of reading Digital Minimalism and it felt only fitting to accompany my learnings with a blog post. I have quite a few thoughts about Digital Minimalism as a whole, but I want to focus in on framing it in the perspective of my identity as a Software Developer, and as someone who has been exposed to and supported by tech all her life.

When first hearing about Digital Minimalism, I was pretty reluctant to the idea. Seeing as the role technology plays in my life today is so substantial, it doesn't feel like I would be as effective of a person should I attempt to further reduce its presence in my life.

However, this concept was still so intriguing to me, so I continued hearing Cal Newport out. I agree with everything he states about the benefits of digital minimalism, the risks and problems that arise with ubiquitous technology, and the quality of life one can have should they adopt this philosophy.

Given my overwhelming agreement, why do I still feel so disconnected to it? Why don't I feel like I could apply it to my own life?

Well, I'm just taking a guess here, but maybe it feels like it directly contradicts everything I've been working towards in my career up until this point. Bold statement, I know. And I'm certain that Cal Newport wasn't discrediting those who develop software or are avidly interested in technology.

I code for a living. I have taken an above average interest in technology and essentially built my career on it. My idea of a project to be proud of is developing a successful application that people use. Are my goals directly contributing to the "evil" embedded deep within our digital world?

Reading this book was eye-opening, but I will admit it did give me a sense of obligation that if I am to develop something with the intention for people to use, it better be something that will add real value to people's worlds. Not some pseudo-helping or another social media app that actually just draws users in to inherently waste their time, and have them keep feeding off endless related links and social approval nuggets.

What responsibility has fell into my lap as a software developer after reading this book! Don't even get me started on the fact that I am only starting to use social media (YouTube, podcasts) to create content, and am inevitably also feeding into this black hole of technological takeover! So I better be making some quality content, or I'll feel as if I'm doing the world more harm than good.

Perhaps it shouldn't be so intense, and I should be taking Cal Newport's words with a heavier grain of salt than I seem to be now. I know I'm being quite a bit dramatic with these words.

I just found it interesting how I went from

"Okay, just gotta develop an app, who cares what it is, as long as you produce something that people will find useful."


"So not only do you have to develop an app, Jiana. You also have to ensure that you're not inadvertently manipulating people. Ensure that your app brings true value, not pseudo-value. If it's a social platform, try to make it so that you're not adding another measure by which people feel anxiety and pressure to be adored and liked. If it's an app for day-to-day use, make sure you're not unnecessarily adding an app to someone's digital world that will become phased out if they decide to endeavour into the world of Digital Minimalism. If you're fostering connections between people, how can you make it so that the connection is not fundamentally meaningless? How do you make it so that you're actually benefitting the people you are connecting rather than allowing them to settle for fostering lower quality relationships?"

Yikes on me.

I'm just kidding, mostly. I don't really feel this huge weight on my shoulders. I know the first step is just making something and taking it from there. I do feel a responsibility to uphold to a digital standard that, at it's core, truly helps rather than hurts. And it's important to me to not add to the evilness that technology and applications hold behind their charade of "bringing value to people's lives".

I don't think social media applications and other time-consuming applications are the source of all evil, contrary to what I might be communicating here. I just think that as a digital creator, I need to have an increased sense of awareness for the true impact what I'm doing will have on the world.

I don't want to be someone who creates mindless entertaining content. Or who enables people to further waste their time on meaningless things. I want for anyone who interacts with what I have put out there to feel like they have learned something, developed a meaningful connection, or felt a little bit better in themselves. Through this, I will know that I have abided by the new guidelines I have learned about and adopted for myself as a digital creator.

Thank you Cal Newport (and Francesco for suggesting the book to me!). You have opened my eyes to the realities that lie behind the curtains of our digital world. I feel that I'm now equipped with my toolbox to really create with the intention to better, and the forewarning that what I create should ideally stand the test of a digital detox. That's how I'll know I really did something good.

As a developer, and dare I say, a digital content creator, I think reading this was like being given the choice to subscribe to a code of ethics among us in the digital world. We can choose to go about our daily lives just as we were, or let these concepts plant seeds into our minds that will inevitably lead to the development of richer interactions and a higher quality of life, just by being aware.

So, where do I sign?