Philip Levy

March 1, 2023

Reintroducing optional digital tech after the Digital Declutter

After taking a month-long break from optional digital technologies, I’m now at the point of making decisions about what I am going to allow back into my life. Cal Newport provides a helpful screen to ensure each tool you reintroduce is there for a reason by meeting these three criteria:

  1. Serve something you deeply value
  2. Be the best way to use technology to serve this value
  3. Have a role in your life that is constrained with a standard operating procedure

This begs the question: what are the values I want to serve with these tools? We’ve identified some of these as a family, not as absolutes but as preferences for one side of a spectrum. For example, “more creating, less consuming” reminds us that we want to be thinking about how are using our time to create something meaningful and valuable for ourselves and others. It’s not all the time. But on average, we aspire to see ourselves more as creators than consumers. Another example is “more listening, less lecturing:” make sure we’re taking the time and attention to really hear people and try to understand them without judgement.

I won’t go into depth on all of these, but a major theme of my endeavor to find work that feels like play is the goal of making the world of technology safe for humanity. This can include anything from making websites that don’t suck to designing apps using artificial intelligence. While there is still so much work to be done on the former, these are interesting and exciting times for AI. As it becomes harder to distinguish human works from that of machines, it will become more important for software designers to cultivate a deep understanding of humans: their history, their behavior, and their foibles. Because of this, time recollecting, studying, and reflecting on the humanities will be well spent, both on a personal and a professional level.

With that context in mind, I will be taking a gradual approach and reintroducing any technologies I took a break from one or two at a time. I’ll start with considering how the two main social media apps I paused, Twitter and LinkedIn, stand up to the Minimalist Technology Screen.


  • Serve values? Twitter is a valuable platform for connecting directly with people who share your interests and tracking rapidly developing ideas and technology. With the caveat that I started my break in the middle of the Musk takeover, so I don’t what exactly it looks like over there now, I see Twitter as a useful way to share creative work and gather inspiration.
  • Best way? Twitter is unique in the way it allows for such direct and open conversation between many different people. While it has its share of functional and quality issues, I haven’t seen another platform that enables this kind of direct access and opportunity to connect with others, particularly in the field of technology.
  • Constrained role? I will try reintroducing Twitter, but I won’t be reinstalling the app on my phone. I will limit my access to the website on my laptop, which will naturally constrain the amount of time I spend on it. To keep the content relevant, I will aggressive cull my follow list (which I have done periodically) and keep my feed in Latest Tweets mode (which I understand shows more content from my follow list and less from the “recommendation engine”).


  • Serve values? LinkedIn is valuable for maintaining my professional network of people I have worked with or are in my field or have related interests. These connections have proved valuable in the past for exploring new opportunities and also provide a way for me to support developing talent within my field.
  • Best way? In my experience, LinkedIn is unmatched for the ability to build and maintain a loose professional network that enables us to see what others are up to and share our progress and wins. There is even more potential here to share side project work and interests to build relationships with others. As long I am engaged in the professional world, this is a must-have networking tool.
  • Constrained role? Like Twitter, there is no reason to have this app on my phone. It’s easy enough to check in periodically on the website for messages and connection requests. I also want to consider how I might post more content here, so that would naturally give me a reason to engage that doesn’t require mindless browsing.

So those are a couple examples of how I will be thinking about reintroducing previous technologies — or maybe introducing new ones — into my life. I won’t post about all of them as I shift my attention from posting about this exercise to more about my areas of interest. But it may also be helpful to check in periodically on how my digital minimalism practice is continuing to support my values. Once again, I am so grateful to my friend, Michael, for taking me along on this journey with him and his colleagues.

About Philip Levy