Digital Minimalism with Ikigai — How I changed my Social Media Addiction and is living a happy life

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Living a simple life is the real art of living longer, and living happily. The Millenial lifestyle — We live in a society where we are judged by the number of likes we get per post, the number of followers we have on our Instagram handle, how much content we create and post online, where all is our social media presence, etc. This is the story of how I got rid of my social media addiction over the past few months. And as the title speaks for itself, this was highly influenced by two books I have read — Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, and Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. If you were thinking of a book summary, sorry you are at the wrong place. This is all about how the philosophy of Ikigai and Digital Minimalism helped me get rid of my social addiction and get me more focused on my purpose in life.

My story starts a year ago. It was three months after the pandemic and lockdown happened. It was announced to be Work From Home for the unforeseen future, so I thought to move back to my hometown and settle with my parents till then. This gave me enough me-time, I don’t have to get ready in the morning, cook food for myself, travel to the office in the traffic, etc. Instead of using this time wisely, I was consumed by Social media. It was pretty addictive that my screen time outside my work used to be an average of almost 12 to 14 hours. Which was an easier explanation to state that I was a victim of Social Media Addiction. Out of the 12 hours, 40% time was spent on WhatsApp. The remaining 60% was spread out on the other social media apps — Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix (I know it isn’t a social media app). I was not aware of this being an addiction unless I got to watch this show on Netflix called The Social Dilemma. Even though I was aware that Social Media Addiction is a Behavioural Addiction that can cause physical as well as psychological issues, I was already addicted. The Documentary reignited my thoughts. Let me take you to my journey of what I did to get me back to the true human.

Ikigai is the Okinawan philosophy that gives a person a sense of purpose, and a reason for living. By practicing the Ikigai principles, we can also increase longevity. Digital Minimalism on the other hand is a philosophy of technology use in which we focus on our online time on a selected and optimized activities that support things we value, and then happily miss out on everything else. When you combine both the philosophy together, you will be able to achieve a better life in real-world and not on social media.

We don’t have to be everywhere, we need to be with ourselves, and that is how we lead a happier life.

Having a balanced digital being is not about throwing your phone and laptop into the cliff and meditating. It is about finding the right balance. I started my balancing initially with the Digital Wellbeing app available on most android phones. I used to put the phone on Digital wellbeing modes on weekends. Initially, I was scared and was having FOMO. But then I realized, my existence on social media isn’t going to change anything. If someone really wants to ask anything or get help, they will ring the phone and not just text and wait. If the person is going to text and wait, it means it can wait. The idea of ‘take it slow’ and ‘Value-based tech use’ helped me get detached from my digital wellbeing. This actually helped me getting quality time to spend on real activities and hobbies. I was able to pick back my reading habits, I was all alive and felt like being a human. I also implemented an app locker where the app gets locked out after a particular time I have set it on. I got rid of spending too much screentime on my smartphone. As days went by, the average screen time of 12 hours dropped to 3 to 4 hours. It also took away the habit of looking at my phone again and again thinking there is a notification.

The purpose of being Minimal is not about getting rid of everything and live like a monk in the Himalayas. Get rid of the social media handles that are no longer adding value to your life. For me, I didn’t delete my Facebook account as I hardly spend less than 10 mins a day on Facebook. I deactivated my Instagram account since half my days' thoughts were thinking on what to post today, why am I not having enough likes as much as my friend. WhatsApp is something I couldn’t get rid of as it is required for my job. Deactivating the social media handles actually helped me get rid of depression even before it started. It is not just about deactivating social media, but also giving it a thought before adopting new technology, or installing a new application. If the app isn’t going to add any value to your life or your purpose, it is better not to install that, even if it is very trending and everyone is on the platform. The clubHouse app was such an example in my life, when ClubHouse was a buzzword, I installed it. But when I realized it isn’t adding any value to my life. I stopped using it. Our generation is actually a texter generation. We prefer to text people more often than to have a conversation on call. It is very wise to become an anti-texter, select only 3 times a day that you will be replying to the texts. And let them know that, you only check your texts only a few times a day, for anything urgent do make a call. Also if a chain of text messages goes into a conversation, call them. As Cal Newport mentioned, ‘You can be the one person in their life who actually talks to them on a regular basis.’

Exercise is to the body as Meditation is to the mind. We have to stay active throughout. As mentioned in the Book Ikigai, in Okinawa, everyone keeps themselves active by finding a hobby to keep them active, they don’t really retire. That’s how I turned into bicycles, the times I saved by reducing my screentime helped me to fix my sleep cycle. This in fact helped me to wake up early. I now use my morning hours for cycling. I ride almost 12 miles a day before starting my work. It really helps me feel good physically, also it does help me bring more energy to my work. Which in fact helps me to be on top of my work and deliver quality. As mentioned earlier, going cycling will be for the body, and for the mind what I do is meditate. Mediation has helped me relax. It helped me get rid of the weight or stress. It makes me feel refreshed inside out. With meditation, we give enough exercise to our minds. We need the balance of a proper body and proper mind to be happy throughout the day. The goal for me it gets in shape before my next birthday. Adding White tea to my daily lifestyle added more energy and makes me feel rejuvenated. The best way to help your mind is to connect yourself with nature. When you take your micro-breaks, instead of going back to the phone, try to look outside through your windows, or go out on a short walk outside your house. This can help you gain more focus and also make you calm. By connecting back to nature means making your hands dirty, and not just looking out to the trees and plants outside the window. Listen to the sound of nature.

It is good to take time off from workdays and find yourself time for doing what you love doing. What about doing that thing you thought to do on weekend? Do it by taking a day off. This will in fact help you to be more productive at work than you would have imagined. I take day-offs for doing things I could have done on a weekend, like an appointment with a doctor on a weekday, or even going shopping, etc. This will help us to realize that we are not living for work, and we are only working for a living. We don’t have to die at work for the monetary benefits or the rewards and recognitions by putting ourselves in a pressure point. Everything can be a little slow, it’s totally okay if you are not working as hard as your colleague just for the sake of a promotion. All that matters to you is your happiness over anything else. It is all about finding the right balance. Taking a break whenever required. Taking days off can actually help you get more time to think if everything is going right with your life, or if your career choice was the right one. If you are following your life purpose. It can also be the day when you get time to connect with your family members too. By following this method, I was able to spend more time doing things I like doing. Also, make sure when you are taking a day off, it should be a total day off without you spending half time worrying about what would be happening at work, or replying to the office pings or emails.

Within a year I was able to get rid of my social media addiction, I was able to figure out that I have a lot of time in my hand than I thought. And that’s where I finally thought of following my Ikigai. Following ikigai means following your:

  • Purpose — What you are good at
  • Profit — What you can be paid for
  • Problem — What the world needs
  • Passion — What you love

I was very lucky to know my ikigai, but the easiest way I would suggest to follow one's ikigai is to start with your purpose or passion. I started with what I was good at, which is I’m pretty good at researching and sharing knowledge and presenting a subject to someone. Be it a seminar, or a workshop, or even a one-to-one interaction. This helped me to figure out the rest 3 Pillars of ikigai.

Like Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward…You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever — because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.” It is very true to look back and connect the dots to figure out your ikigai. Wishing you a better life with a minimal digital existence and happiness.

Storyteller | Agile Practitioner | Management Graduate