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En Español: Digital minimalism and COVID-19


Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Mi celular se ha vuelto un apéndice externo de mi cerebro—ir a cualquier parte sin él es inconcebible, aún cuando voy de mi sala a mi cuarto durante la cuarentena. Hace poco leí el libro Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World de Cal Newport, considerado un “Marie Kondo” para nuestras vidas digitales. Newport nos da consejos para organizar nuestras vidas digitales, tales como desinstalar aplicaciones que no usamos, pasar menos tiempo en nuestros celulares y determinar qué es lo que realmente queremos y necesitamos de nuestra tecnología. Newport también habla de los efectos psicológicos que ha traído un mundo que cada vez esta más conectado electrónicamente
Digital Minimalism nos muestra el modelo de negocios de las compañías de redes sociales. El modelo incluye investigaciones para descubrir las vulnerabilidades humanas y así entender cómo lograr que sus usuarios utilicen sus productos durante más tiempo. Estas compañías básicamente logran vender el tiempo y la atención de sus usuarios a empresas publicitarias. El libro también menciona que el omnipresente iPhone (smartphone que hizo su debut en el 2007 cuando la mayoría de personas utilizaban las redes sociales desde casa en computadores), solía tener solo un puñado de aplicaciones y no se le podía instalar nuevas aplicaciones.

Newport después habla en detalle acerca de los efectos perjudiciales que tiene un mundo constantemente conectado a través de la comunicación en persona. Tales efectos incluyen la dificultad para mantener contacto visual, para participar en conversaciones sin tener que revisar el celular, y para poder ignorar el celular cuando estamos en el cine. Newport también muestra la diferencia entre las conexiones virtuales (nuestras redes sociales y comunicaciones virtuales) y las conversaciones (nuestro contacto humano en persona). Son muchos los estudios que han demostrado que el contacto en persona trae mayor empatía, mejor habilidad para escuchar y la habilidad de poder reconocer cuándo alguien está en peligro.

Aunque muchos usuarios de las redes sociales (incluida yo) creen que tener una presencia social en estos medios es una manera eficiente de mantenerse al día con sus amigos, sus compañeros y sus familiares, los estudios de investigación han demostrado que autorregular el tiempo que pasamos en nuestras vidas virtuales es un auténtico reto. Cuando revisamos nuestros celulares para ver cuál es la notificación más reciente, le damos a nuestros cerebros un poco de dopamina, la hormona del placer. Esto resulta en un circulo vicioso de adicción a nuestros aparatos y causa que le pongamos mas atención a las conexiones virtuales y menos atención a las conversaciones en persona, lo que beneficia a las empresas publicitarias y nos perjudica a nosotros. Reconozco las numerosas ventajas de usar un smartphone; sin embargo, también soy consciente del alto peaje que pagamos, dado que separar la vida laboral y la vida familiar se complica cada vez que siento la tentación de revisar mis e-mails, mensajes de voz, mensajes de texto y notificaciones en mis horas de descanso.

Haber leído este libro antes de la cuarentena me ha ayudado a ser más consiente de mi uso del celular y a implementar algunas de las técnicas sugeridas por Newport. Mientras que estemos en esta cuarentena es posible que la gente pase más tiempo interactuando en persona (manteniendo la distancia social recomendada, por supuesto) y que revalúen sus vidas digitales. Pero me preocupa que la cuarentena acelere y aumente nuestra preferencia hacia las conexiones virtuales en detrimento de las conversaciones en persona. Al pasar más tiempo en casa quizás seamos más propensos a utilizar las redes sociales más y más. Esto, además de la falta de contacto humano fuera de nuestras casas y las teleconferencias para trabajar y estudiar virtualmente, podría abrir una caja de Pandora de conexiones virtuales que nos privaría del contacto humano que necesitaremos incluso más después de que termine esta cuarentena.

Digital Minimalism

Written and translated by Laura Pico

My cell phone has become an external appendix for my brain — going anywhere without it is inconceivable, even as I go from the living room to my bedroom during quarantine. I recently read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport, considered to be the Marie Kondo book of our digital lives. Newport advises us how to declutter our digital lives by removing apps we do not use, spending less time on our phones and figuring out what we truly want and need from our technology. We have become more electronically connected, and this has resulted in serious psychological effects, according to Newport.

Digital Minimalism explains the business model of popular social media companies, which oftentimes includes research on exploiting human vulnerabilities to be able to coax their users into spending more time on their products. These companies are able to essentially sell their users’ time and attention to advertisers. The book also mentions that the now-ubiquitous iPhone, which debuted in 2007 (a time in which most people used social media at home on a desktop computer), only had a handful of features with no ability to install additional apps.

Newport then goes on to detail the detrimental effects of a constantly connected world on our in-person communications including, among other things, difficulty maintaining eye contact, engaging in conversations over dinner without glancing at a phone and ignoring our devices at a movie theater. He also contrasts connections (our online social networks and communications) with conversations (our in-person human contact). In-person contact, studies have proven, allows for better empathy, increased listening skills and the ability to recognize when someone is in distress.

Although many social media users (myself included) believe that maintaining a social media presence is an efficient way to keep up-to-date with their friends, classmates and relatives, studies have shown that we are often unable to self-regulate the time we spend tending to our digital lives. Checking our phone for the latest notification gives our brain a small hit of dopamine, the pleasure hormone, causing us to be stuck in a feedback loop that has us hopelessly addicted to our devices. This causes us to spend more time on our virtual connections and leave us with less time for in-person conversations, benefiting advertising companies and hurting ourselves. I recognize the many benefits that come with using a smartphone; however, it comes with the pitfall of the blurring between study and home life when I am tempted to check emails, voice messages and text messages while I’m supposed to be relaxing.

Reading this book before the quarantine has helped me become more conscious of my phone usage and implement some of the techniques suggested by Newport. While we are quarantined, I hope that people spend more time engaging in person-to-person contact (while still maintaining recommended social distancing, of course) and reevaluate their digital lives. I am concerned that quarantining will help accelerate and increase our indulgence in digital connections over conversations. With more time spent at home, people may feel the urge to spend more time engaging in social media to occupy their time. Coupled with the lack of human contact outside our home, teleconferencing apps to work and learn remotely, we may be opening a Pandora’s box of digital connections that strips us of our much-needed human contact once we are in a post COVID-19 world.

Laura Pico is a first-year law student at the University of Iowa College of Law. While social distancing, she enjoys bird-watching from her apartment window. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 282.


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