Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Digital Minimalism Isn’t What I Thought It Was

Written by: on March 8, 2019

Digital Minimalism covers a different way of approaching technology. Newport defines it as a philosophy in which you “focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.” Digital Minimalism describes a process for how to get there. Newport recommends a 30-day fast (a “declutter”) from optional technologies. After 30 days, you figure out which technologies best support real interpersonal connections or professional advancement. What distinguishes Newport’s book from other literature scolding people to get off their phones is that he talks about what else you should do with your time. By thinking seriously about what else you’d like to do with your analog leisure time, and building this into your life, you can find Facebook less tempting even if one lacks willpower.[1]

While the title of this work focuses on minimizing digital distractions, the contents of the book focus on enlarging low tech leisure practices. The working premise seems to be to focus on filling up your leisure time with non-digital life-giving activities rather than defaulting to brain-drain addictive digital options. For example, the practice of spending time alone includes leaving your phone at home, taking daily long walks, and writing your thoughts down non-digitally (the author utilized moleskins).[2] I think I shall try to put this in practice by taking both my phone (only to receive phone calls) and moleskin (along with my ever-present pen) on daily walks, throughout the day. This fits in with Glo’s helpful admonition for me to walk several miles every day for health and fitness.

The practice of “don’t click like” promotes verbal interaction and communication with friends and acquaintances rather than via digital interaction. In the section on reclaiming conversation, I was reminded of the gift of coaching and listening one-on-one, face-to-face. One of the suggestions I was particularly drawn to was inviting phone calls during long commutes (holding conversation office hours). I often find this the best time to check in on Glo and the kids as I typically have an hour-“ish” daily commute home in the evenings.[3]

The practice of reclaiming leisure was interesting again in its focus on analog activities. The suggestions included participation in crafts, playing board games, fixing or building something every week, and joining an organization.[4] I am challenged to create an alternative to reclaiming leisure as these suggestions do not attract my interest or fit within my available time (unless I can count my dminlgp9 activities as leisure!) Perhaps the biggest take-away from this section is to be purposeful, be life-giving, and find what works best for you and your unique circumstance.

I found the “Join the Attention Resistance” section challenging and yet inspirational. I appreciate Newport’s admonition to guard my attention as an asset that others only want to market and profit from at my expense. In this season of Lent, I am embarking on an experiment to utilize social media as only a tool, declutter my phone of apps, and embrace slow media. While this text will not be part of my research, it has given me a well-constructed approach to utilizing digital options simply as tools and learning how to reclaim leisure in analog forms.

[1] Vanderkam, Laura, Reviewed on February 6, 2019, Accessed on 03/08/2019, https://lauravanderkam.com/2019/02/digital-minimalism-a-review/

[2] Newport, Cal, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019) 112-126.

[3] Newport, Digital Minimalism, 144-164.

[4] Newport, Digital Minimalism, 177-206.

About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

20 responses to “Digital Minimalism Isn’t What I Thought It Was”

  1. Mario Hood says:

    Harry, you are a prophet who can post a week ahead! All jokes aside, this was a great post and not having read the book yet, you paint a great picture of what to expect.

    As I have one foot in the marketing world as well, I can tell you that ATTENTION is what it trades on. Most marketers know more about the way people function than they do themselves. As the world continues to lean on technology finding that balance is going to be key.

    How do you see this balance working out your area of study?

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mario, my early post simply reflects that I will be out next week and I would rather attempt to stay ahead rather than catch up (don’t ask about my research course!) Your question is interesting and at first I didn’t see much application. However, developing coaching networks depends upon global church planting organizations recognizing the value and getting the word out to all its constituents (i.e., attention.) Perhaps at some point I would love to bribe you somehow to get your thoughts on this. Also, technology becomes important as coach and client are often not in analog proximity. What is the best technology for the context? Even in my own limited global applications, I am seeing that internet access is often unreliable. Thanks again for a good question to provoke my thinking. Many blessings on you and your research.

  3. Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Great review of Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism, Harry. You jumped a week ahead, but I see why from your response to Mario. Thanks for the great preview of what is to come. I liked your reflection on ‘Newport’s admonition to guard my attention as an asset that others only want to market and profit from at my expense.’ Sounds like it’s going to be a good book to read next week. Thanks for the preview, my friend!

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Nancy, I appreciate you and your insights! Yes, Newport challenged me to think of my attention as an asset for others or perhaps more distinctly, as a stewardship issue for me. That is, I am responsible for what I allow my attention to become fixed upon among the shiny objects of the digital world. Thanks again, Dear Friend.

  4. Hey Harry. First of all, kudos on doing twice as much work than what’s required last week. I have enough stress as it is just trying to catch up with all the reading/writing, what with addictively needing to click all the “likes” on my social media. Hahahaha! Just kidding.

    I’ve read only a few chapters but I agree, I believe the author is calling on us to be purposeful about all the technology we engage in.

    I knew something gravely amiss was taking place, forming our current generation in abnormal ways, was when I got castigated for not having my phone with me. You see, I routinely set my phone aside, sometimes purposefully placing it in random spots in my surroundings so I don’t succumb to the dangers Newport talks about in the book.

    The book engaging and I’m looking forward to reading it to the end. The question I’m hoping he answers is how do we deal with the relationships between the digital minimalist and the digital maximalist, especially in work situations?

  5. Jenn Burnett says:

    I appreciate you drawing out the section on leisure time Harry. One of the things I’m noticing with my kids is how hard it is to get them to cultivate hobbies or leisure activities. They also seem to resist trying things. Though they all enjoy competitive sports. The admonition to find leisure activities doesn’t only seem to combat digital addiction, but also challenges the compulsion to constant work. Somehow we must also resist consumption as leisure. How would you coach younger pastors on deciding what healthy leisure activists might be be?

  6. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Great question! I think perhaps a way to broach this is what is life-giving rather than life draining (whether digital or analog!)? Another perspective is, what can you do with your family or community versus alone? That is, there are life-giving activities for yourself but also life-giving activities to do with your spouse and your family. Of course, a great qualifier is, “What is the Lord saying to you about this activity?” Keep pursuing life, Dear Friend!

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