Chapter 6: The Family and Friends Trap
How to set boundaries and discover digital minimalism for you and others
This is chapter 6 of my upcoming book Low Tech Lifestyle. As a free subscriber, you get a free preview :). Premium subscribers get access to the whole book. If you haven’t subscribed, click the button below. Thanks for your support!
In my journey through the dumbphone subreddit, I stumbled upon a recurring theme: users grappling with the disapproval of family and friends as they chose to adopt a basic phone. The widespread reliance on messaging apps like WhatsApp and iMessage has left those who've opted for minimalism struggling to balance social and familial expectations with their desire for simplicity. One particular story comes to mind, where a user described the disappointment of their loved ones as they made the switch, leaving them feeling isolated and torn between maintaining their newfound digital tranquility and the need to stay connected.
In this chapter, we'll delve into these challenges, weaving together the stories and experiences of those who have faced this dilemma. Along the way, we'll uncover alternative methods of staying in touch with the people who matter most, all while upholding a mindful and deliberate approach to communication. Through these narratives, we hope to offer support and encouragement to those on their own journey towards a more balanced relationship with technology.
Who are you doing this for?
When my wife and I relocated to Denver in 2022, we were faced with a crucial decision – should we purchase a second car, or continue relying on our trusty 2004 Toyota Camry? After weighing our options, I decided to take an unconventional approach and chose an electric bike for my daily commute. Despite my new workplace being roughly 10 miles away, the savings were substantial, and the prospect of experimenting with alternative modes of transportation was enticing. However, when we moved in January, right before the peak of winter, my family members were skeptical. They expressed concerns about my safety, the feasibility of this lifestyle in snowy conditions, and the overall practicality of my decision. My parents jokingly questioned the viability of this "crazy" idea, while my in-laws urged me to reconsider and opt for a more traditional vehicle.
A year after using public transportation and my electric bike, I am wholeheartedly convinced that buying another car was unnecessary. This lifestyle change has had a profoundly positive impact on my life, and I am grateful for having the courage to explore a new mode of transportation. The benefits are numerous: my family has saved a significant amount of money, I've incorporated additional exercise into my daily routine, and my job remains unaffected. Although my situation may be unique due to my flexible schedule, I am content with the positive changes that have resulted from my unconventional choice. This experience has reminded me of the time I transitioned to vegetarianism, despite my parents' disappointment during holiday visits as they could no longer serve me their delicious meals. I made the decision to change my diet for myself, with the goal of improving my health. I didn't do it for them.
It's essential to recognize that societal pressures and norms often influence our decisions, but we should challenge ourselves to explore alternative options that might be healthier or more cost-effective. The message here is that minimizing digital access to smart devices is a personal choice that can yield various benefits. It's not about pleasing others but prioritizing individual well-being when making this decision. Adopting such a shift in perspective can lead to more mindful and intentional use of technology. In the pursuit of a healthier and more conscious lifestyle, embracing unconventional choices and evaluating their impact becomes crucial. By stepping outside our comfort zones and welcoming new ideas and approaches, we can uncover untapped potential and foster positive change, all while remaining true to our values and aspirations.
It's important to note that making positive changes in your life doesn't mean alienating loved ones. Instead, it's a matter of setting boundaries and sticking to them. In my case, I've established a communication system that works for me. I call my loved ones once a week and chat only on desktop clients. To handle iMessage groups, I use my email through my Mac, and for WhatsApp, I use Bluestacks, an Android operating system emulator. By changing the way I communicate from my pocket to my office at home, I am able to stay focused on the present without being distracted by constant notifications. Although this means I may occasionally be late to the conversation and not always able to interact in real-time with everyone's thoughts, it's a tradeoff I'm willing to make to create boundaries and limits for my digital consumption. This system has allowed me to remain connected with important messages and discussions without having to constantly listen to pings coming from my phone's speaker.
As I've navigated these changes in my life, I've discovered that it's possible to strike a balance between embracing alternative options and maintaining connection with those who matter most. By setting boundaries and establishing effective communication systems, we can minimize our reliance on smart devices while still staying in touch with our loved ones. It's about finding the right balance that allows us to live our lives on our terms, while also nurturing the relationships that enrich our lives.
Make the most when you are present
I must confess, I have a deep affection for technology. I enjoy watching TV, consuming content, and playing video games. My inability to restrain myself is what prompted me to explore a lifestyle change and reduce my interaction with single-purpose devices. I know all too well that when something new is presented to me, I need to be mindful and establish healthy boundaries around it. During Christmas 2022, my wife and I traveled to California to spend time with both of our families. Sitting in front of the 60-inch TV in my grandma's living room, I binge-watched the fifth season of Cobra Kai on Netflix. It was right there, tempting me to waste hours watching it instead of engaging in meaningful conversations with my grandmother. Rather than showing interest in my aunt and uncle's latest news and topics of discussion, I chose to consume content from a screen. Later that evening, we went to dinner, and I managed to catch up with them, but I had failed to remain focused on what truly mattered.
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