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Practicing Digital Minimalism in a Pandemic

We have both the good wolf and the bad wolf, the sage and the saboteur, the creator and the destroyer within us. This yin and yang is something that lies at the core of the human condition. So, it makes sense to address this duality and equip ourselves to better navigate it in these times of catastrophe and global crisis.

Like there’s duality in everything around us, there’s duality within us too. We have both the good wolf and the bad wolf, the sage and the saboteur, the creator and the destroyer within us. 

This yin and yang is something that lies at the core of the human condition. So, it makes sense to address this duality and equip ourselves to better navigate it in these times of catastrophe and global crisis.

In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport uses a well-known chariot metaphor from Plato’s Phaedrus to represent the human struggle of navigating modern technology and all the advantages and disadvantages that come with it. In this dialogue, Socrates states, “[T]he charioteer of the human soul drives a pair, and secondly one of the horses is noble and of noble breed, but the other quite the opposite in breed and character.” He further elaborates that our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein these two horses in order to cultivate a worthy life. This requires the charioteer to allow the noble steed, the one that represents our higher self and our better nature, to take charge while keeping its corrupt partner, the one that represents our ignorant impulses and base instincts, in check.

Newport points out that when we succumb to digital distractions and temptations, we energize the ignoble horse making it increasingly difficult for the charioteer to stay on course, thus diminishing our soul’s dominance. 

This is an intrinsic, unending battle that we all must fight at all costs, and now more than ever. These are times when we must become fiercer and more tenacious as we encounter the stress and anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic on a regular basis.

As Newport writes in his blog, “In this current situation, for most people, the constant monitoring of online news about the virus is providing pure fuel to the ignoble steed, dragging the allegorical chariot away from what’s good and awe-inspiring about life — even during turmoil — and toward bottom-less anxiety and pseudo-paralysis. The ignoble steed always craves more of this attention-catching information. What if something extra terrible just happened? What if I find a link that makes me feel better? But in this feverish pursuit, the charioteer loses control.”

Of course, we must not swear off technology, but instead use the philosophy of digital minimalism to guide our behaviors and actions and make better choices that support our holistic health and well-being. Like social distancing, we must also distance ourselves from the fear of missing out, and create a digital environment for ourselves that supports and elevates us, not sabotages and degrades us. 

It’s crucial that we all be intentional and conscious about using technology as we go through this pandemic. You, yes you, are in command of both the wolves within you. You are in charge of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that live within you. You are the charioteer having the reins to both the horses. It’s up to you now how you choose to show up in the world and which one you energize and empower.

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